Ferguson takes big step

Wide receiver, Favre bolster confidence in each other

Robert Ferguson took a blow that hurt him in a couple of different ways last December when he was leveled with an unnecessary clothesline hit by Jacksonville's Donovin Darius. Physically, he was knocked out for the remainder of the season. Mentally, the spine-numbing effects of Darius' cheap shot lingered for months, and likely into this season.

Ferguson will never admit to such effects. He's too proud, too tough. His coach, Mike Sherman, the guy that drafted him in 2001, also has insisted at the start of this season that his wide receiver is back normal. But that didn't appear to be the case on a couple of different occasions in Green Bay's first four games. Ferguson short-armed a pass from Brett Favre over the middle at Detroit that was intercepted. In Ferguson's defense, he may have lost track of the ball in the Ford Field background. A few weeks later in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers, Ferguson allowed cornerback Ken Lucas to wrestle a pass away for an interception. Favre wasn't too happy, but instead of chewing Ferguson out on the sideline in front of a national television audience, he pumped him up. Ferguson came back less than a week later and responded in Green Bay's 52-3 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

With Donald Driver clearly Green Bay's top receiver, Favre needs Ferguson to improve if the Packers will have any chance of scoring points during their brutal stretch of games after the bye week. Through four games, Ferguson was tied with William Henderson for third on the team in receiving with 12 catches for 143 yards (11.9 avg. per catch).

Ferguson finished with three catches for a season-high 84 yards and a 25-yard touchdown catch, his third of the season, against the Saints. Besides his touchdown catch, he also caught a deep pass from Favre that set up a touchdown. Favre was so happy for Ferguson after his touchdown catch, in tight coverage in the middle of the end zone, that he attempted to pick the receiver up like a groom carrying his bride across the threshold. In a way, Favre and Ferguson cemented their relationship. That's important for the remainder of the season, especially with Javon Walker watching from afar with a surgically repaired knee.

"It will give him confidence, I hope, in the future," Favre said. "(But) I don't need confidence in him. I have it."

During the Packers' first series of the third quarter, Ferguson motioned to Favre out of what was supposed to be an intermediate comeback route to unloading a 51-yard throw to the streaking receiver along the sideline. It turned out to be Favre's longest completion of the season and Ferguson's longest reception of his career.

Favre completed the drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Donald Lee. No sooner, Favre was jumping into the arms of Ferguson, who never had any doubts about whether the QB would still call his number in the huddle.

"He knows what I can do. I know what I can do," Ferguson said. "I've made plays in this league for five years now; I've made a lot of them for him. So, confidence was never an issue as far as him having confidence in me, and I never lacked confidence in myself."

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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