Ferguson's days numbered

Oft-injured wide receiver probably won't be with Packers in 2006

In another disappointment during a season that careened into oblivion, the 3-12 Packers didn't have a player voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1999.

Rubbing the proverbial salt into the wound was the selection of four ex-Packers to the NFC team: Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Carolina guard Mike Wahle, Minnesota safety Darren Sharper and Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell.

Yet, perhaps more notable than those players who apparently have found greener pastures outside Green Bay was Miami receiver Chris Chambers gaining a spot on the AFC team for the February all-star game in Hawaii.

While Chambers has served notice to the entire league, his career-best season of 77 catches for 1,043 yards and 11 touchdowns is a constant reminder to the Packers for a draft-day oversight in 2001.

In his final draft as Green Bay's general manager, Ron Wolf chose receiver Robert Ferguson out of Texas A&M early in the second round, with the 41st overall pick. Former University of Wisconsin standout Chambers went 11 spots later to the Dolphins.

In hindsight, Wolf has acknowledged on a number of occasions in the past year that he would love to have the pick back. The confession is more of an indictment on the lack of progress by Ferguson than it is a nod to the strides made by Chambers.

The disparity between the two players during their five-year careers is staggering. Chambers has outperformed Ferguson by a roughly 3-to-1 ratio in the key statistical categories of catches (310-111), receiving yards (4,521-1,546) and touchdown receptions (39-11).

Since Ferguson has been susceptible to injury and has shown few signs of emerging as an impact receiver, the possibility exists that the Packers will part ways with him after this season.

Ferguson has a total of only 51 catches and four touchdowns the last two seasons after Green Bay awarded him a five-year contract extension worth nearly $11 million, including a $3.5 million signing bonus, in the 2004 offseason.

This season, Ferguson has mustered just 27 receptions for 366 yards and three touchdowns, failing to capitalize on a golden opportunity as a starter after Javon Walker suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. A torn knee ligament incurred in an early-season loss at Minnesota has sidelined Ferguson on two occasions, including the 24-17 loss to Chicago on Sunday.

"He's a good player. We like everything about him, (but) he just has to be healthy," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "He's up and down, up and down. It's hard to get a good feel for the quarterback and get your timing down when you're in and out."

Interestingly, Ferguson, who's held in high regard by the team's coaching staff and teammates for his toughness, has drawn on-field criticism from quarterback Brett Favre for not going all out to make at least a couple of catches this season.

Ferguson, 26, has three years remaining on his contract with salaries of $1.4 million, $1.8 million and $2.2 million.

The Packers signed former Washington first-round draft pick Rod Gardner last week. They are using the two-game audition at the end of the season to gauge the viability of retaining him and perhaps not Ferguson as a complement to Walker and Donald Driver next season.

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