Ferguson's prospects for recovery are good

Robert Ferguson gave a thumbs up to the crowd while being carted off the field following a vicious hit in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Jacksonville. As for Ferguson's medical condition the day after the game, it's not quite a thumbs up.

Ferguson will remain hospitalized in Green Bay until Tuesday. Packers coach Mike Sherman, who visited Ferguson and his wife at Bellin Hospital after the game, was optimistic Ferguson would make a full recovery.

"They gave no indication that it's career-threatening," Sherman said. "But I don't know if you can make that evaluation less than 24 hours (later). All signs indicate that he's going to be fine. He does have some back pain, did have some headaches last night."

The clothesline hit from Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius left Ferguson with a sprained neck, a concussion and temporary paralysis in his legs. By Monday, Ferguson was able to move his arms and legs but had continued numbness on his left side, Eric Armstead, director of player development for EO Sports Management, told The Associated Press. Ferguson's agent, Brian Overstreet, works for EO Sports.

According to Sherman, Ferguson vowed he'd return to action before the end of the season. In fact, "He said he would be back at practice on Wednesday, which is typical of Robert Ferguson," Sherman said.

Sherman, however, already has ruled Ferguson out for Friday afternoon's showdown at the Metrodome against Minnesota. The winner of that game will win the NFC North.

Ferguson is a winner in Sherman's book. The coach was impressed that Ferguson gave a thumbs-up signal to help reassure an on-edge Lambeau Field crowd.

"He's a great kid," Sherman said. "For him to put a thumbs up to the crowd on the way off the field, knowing he couldn't move his toes, I don't know ... (he's a) special guy."

What was not special, in Sherman's book, was the hit applied by Darius. As Ferguson made a leaping catch over the middle with 4:41 remaining in the game, Darius' stuck out his left arm and chopped Ferguson down by the neck.

Sherman said after the game he thought the hit was a "cheap shot" and didn't back away from that statement Monday. He told Darius the same thing on the field Sunday before the safety was ejected.

"I had a conversation," Sherman said. "I would say I was a little emotional."

Sherman wouldn't say what he thought Darius' punishment should be, saying only the league is "pretty diligent" in protecting its players.

In Jacksonville, coach Jack Del Rio said Darius did not deserve a suspension.

"We like the guys to try to club through the ball," Del Rio said. "It was a nasty shot, but I don't believe his intent was to headhunt the guy."

Del Rio said Darius is an aggressive player but not a cheap-shot artist.

"He plays a physical brand of football, but he plays within the rules," Del Rio said. "He did not go helmet to helmet. He did not project himself or launch himself into the guy. He attempted to club at the football and ended up clubbing the guy in the head. It should be flagged and it was. I'm sure it will be fined and it should be.

"If he really wanted to hurt the guy, he would launch himself or he would go helmet on helmet and really kill the guy."

Darius said much the same thing after the game.

"It was nothing intentional. I love to play this game 100 miles an hour, and I would never do anything outside the rules."

While Sherman and several players were steamed about the play, a few of Ferguson's teammates said plays like that are part of football.

"I wouldn't call it a cheap shot," said tight end Bubba Franks. "Darren Sharper tried to take one of their guys out like that but he missed. It's the game we play."

On ESPNews' "Monday Morning Quarterback" program, commentator, former NFL coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said Darius deserved to be penalized and ejected but should not be suspended. Ditka and colleague Eric Allen, a former Pro Bowl defensive back, said Darius overran Ferguson on the play and his only way of bringing Ferguson down was to reach out with his arm. Ditka saw the play as illegal but not intentional.

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