Ferguson ready, willing but maybe not able

Earlier in the year, Men's Journal named Brett Favre it's "Toughest Man in America." With Robert Ferguson's attitude, that award could stay in Green Bay in 2005.

Ferguson, 11 days after a clothesline hit left his legs temporarily paralyzed and his career in doubt, in no uncertain terms said he wants to play football again. Not sometime in his career. Not even during the playoffs.

Now.

"I'm trying to play Sunday against the Bears," Ferguson said as he spoke to reporters for the first time since the harrowing incident.

That's not going to happen. Packers coach Mike Sherman listed Ferguson as "out" in the official league injury report. Nonetheless, Ferguson is focused on returning to the field sooner rather than later.

"Right now, I'm trying to get back for Sunday. And if not Sunday, then hopefully the playoff game," Ferguson said, adding: "I think (practicing next week is) a realistic goal right now."

Ferguson's toughness is becoming a bit of a local legend. During training camp, when he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, Ferguson showed up at practice in full pads without approval of the medical staff. Packers coach Mike Sherman jokingly called Ferguson an "idiot" for pushing himself so hard.

"That's just the way he is. It wouldn't surprise me" if Ferguson practiced next week, Packers receivers coach Ray Sherman said.

Ferguson's recovery from the hit by Jacksonville's Donovin Darius is coming along remarkably quickly. He's done some jogging and push-ups but hasn't practiced. Still, he's suffering from weakness in his left side and continued headaches as part of the aftereffects of a concussion.

"Besides the headaches, every day, physically, I feel a lot stronger," Ferguson said.

The most memorable part of the incident, aside from the hit itself, was Ferguson giving a thumbs-up sign as he was carried off the field on a stretcher. Ferguson said that was a sign to reassure his daughter, Auryon, who was watching at home.

"She's 4 now, so she can understand," Ferguson said. "I really had her in mind, and my family."

It was about that time, however, when Ferguson wasn't so sure he'd be OK. Unable to move his legs, Ferguson thought the worst.

"Naturally, if I couldn't move my legs ... I definitely thought it was my last play," Ferguson said.

The feeling and movement slowly came back during his ride to the hospital, so Ferguson went from fearing his career would be over to focusing on getting back on the field ASAP.

"I knew my legs weren't broken or anything like that, so I felt like I could get back and play," Ferguson said.

As for Darius, Ferguson harbors no ill feelings. A phone call from Darius to a hospitalized Ferguson helped alleviate any anger.

"I didn't think he was a dirty player or anything like that," Ferguson said. "It showed by him calling and showing his concern."

While Darius may not be a dirty player, Ferguson did say it was a "dirty hit."

"There's a lot of things that happen out there in the flow of the game that I don't think you necessarily intended on hurting anyone," Ferguson said.

Ferguson, however, would rather look ahead and not back. Thus, his focus is on contributing to a playoff run.

"I wouldn't say angry, but it put a lot of things in perspective," Ferguson said. "I was just thinking more of the things I didn't do on the field. It really just made me even hungrier."

That hunger has Ferguson working hard to make a remarkable recovery. Ferguson said he worked too hard to get ready for the season to just give up on it now.

"There was a lot of preparation and a lot of work I put in coming into the season, and I still want to see that pay off," Ferguson said. "I feel like the postseason is a new season."


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