Opportunity knocks

Newly acquired players excited about chance to play

Walter Williams, Andrae Thurman and Taco Wallace have a lot in common, at least lately. All three were out of football until Tuesday, and all three come to the banged-up Green Bay Packers with a chip on their shoulders.

Thurman and Williams were released by the Green Bay Packers on the final cutdown of the preseason Sept. 1. Wallace was released by Seattle at the same time. Of the three, only Thurman was signed by another team – the Tennessee Titans – but he only played on special teams and did not make the team's 45-man game-day roster the last two weeks. He was not a happy camper because of his lack of playing time in Nashville, missed a meeting last week, and the Titans quickly released him.

"Really didn't get an opportunity down there, so I'd like to make them pay," Thurman said as he dressed for practice in Green Bay's locker room on Wednesday.

Thurman was used mainly on special teams as a punt and kickoff returner. He'll do the same in Green Bay, but he also steps in as the No. 3 receiver behind Donald Driver and Antonio Chatman. With Robert Ferguson out for up to four weeks with a sprained knee, Thurman will be given a legitimate chance to make a mark in the NFL.

"It's a very good opportunity," Thurman said. "It's unfortunate the way it happened, but a very good opportunity. It's hard to get into this kind of situation, but I'm preparing to make the most of my opportunity, let it all hang, just be loose, and play football."

Thurman has an immediate advantage over his nearest competitor Taco Wallace, whom also was signed by the Packers on Tuesday, because he was with the Packers throughout the offense and in training camp. Thurman was slowed in training camp by a broken right thumb, but he says that is completely healed and he ready to make the most of his return to Green Bay.

"This is a receiver offense. You've got Brett Favre throwing you the ball, so it's a good offense to be in," Thurman said.

Like Thurman, Williams also returns to Green Bay. He also had a solid training camp but was released during the final cutdown on Sept. 1.

"It was kind of hard to swallow when you leave," Williams said. "I like the area. I like the team. I like my teammates. I definitely didn't want to leave, obviously."

Williams spent the past six weeks at his home in Baton Rouge, La., working out and waiting for the phone to ring. He spoke with a few teams, but never got any offers to play elsewhere. In the meantime, he followed the Packers.

"I've been watching everything that's been going on," Williams said. "It's kind of bittersweet because you never want anybody to get hurt, but this is part of the game, so I'm excited to come back and help as much as I can."

Williams enters Sunday's game at Cincinnati as the No. 3 running back behind Tony Fisher and Rashard Lee. The Packers have been hit hard at the position, losing Ahman Green (thigh) and Najeh Davenport (ankle) to season-ending injuries.

Lee was signed by the Packers on Oct. 5. Though Williams has much more experience in Green Bay's offense, Coach Mike Sherman said today that the backup spot behind Fisher is wide open. Lee has gained 7 yards on 7 carries in two games with the Packers. He did not carry the ball from scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, but has has been used on special teams, primarily as a kickoff returner.

"To say (Williams) is ahead of Lee, I can't necessarily say that," Sherman said. "Walter has more exposure to the offense, but does that put him ahead? I can't say that at this point."

Wallace also is excited about his opportunity and thankful for Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who selected him in the seventh round of the NFL draft in 2003 in Seattle. Wallace was scheduled to come to Green Bay from his home in Los Angeles last Friday, prior to Ferguson's knee injury on Sunday. Wallace was released by the Seahawks on the final cutdown for the third straight season. He also feels like he has never gotten a decent chance to prove himself.

"I'd get a little crack in the window, but it never stays open," Wallace said.

Wallace, who is a legitimate deep threat, beat out veteran Freddie Mitchell for the job in Green Bay. Mitchell also was in Green Bay on Tuesday for a workout, but the Packers went with the younger Wallace.

"Ted, he likes me. I like him too (smiles)," Wallace said. "Very much. He has watched me do what I can do."

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