Big test for Gardner

Wide receiver in line to replace Ferguson in 2006

One team's trash is another's treasure. The Green Bay Packers may have come across a steal in Rod Gardner. The big wide receiver is exactly what the Packers need in their offense, but first he'll need to show them something Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Gardner will get every chance to prove that he is worthy of re-signing this off-season in Green Bay's regular-season finale against the Seattle Seahawks. Wide receiver Robert Ferguson, who has not practiced in the last two days, is not expected to suit up for the game after aggravating a knee injury two weeks ago. Without Ferguson, who appears to be on the way out of Green Bay, Gardner will have ample playing time to leave a favorable final impression on management and the coaches.

Gardner was on the field for nearly 35 snaps in his Packers debut last Sunday but was limited in what he could offer because he had only three days of practice with the team after it claimed him off waivers from Carolina. He made a pair of receptions against the Chicago Bears on Christmas Day for 23 yards, including a 22-yard catch-and-run on a crossing pattern.

With a better feel for assignments and route running in the Packers' version of the West Coast offense, Gardner should have a more pronounced role Sunday. A solid performance may convince Green Bay to re-sign the former first-round draft pick of Washington for next season and make the underachieving Ferguson expendable.

"I like it here," said Gardner. "I like the offense. They're letting me do my thing, and I like that. This is a good organization here."

If Gardner doesn't completely embarrass himself on Sunday, it might be a no-brainer for the Packers to re-sign him and seriously consider dropping the oft-injured Ferguson. At 6-foot-2, 217-pounds, Gardner gives Brett Favre a bigger target than the 6-0, 210-pound Ferguson. Gardner also appears to be thankful for a fresh start after not getting a chance to play much this season with the Panthers. Gardner caught just nine passes and had one touchdown with the Panthers this season in 10 games. He was Washington's first-round pick in the 2001 NFL draft, but was traded to the Panthers for a sixth-round draft pick in July.

Gardner's biggest season with the Redskins was in 2002 when he caught 71 passes for 1,006 yards. But his production declined as did his commitment to football, according to some reports, and he was traded.

Gardner hasn't had a lot of time in Green Bay's offense, but likes what he sees so far, and he's healthy. With uncertainty surrounding the injured Javon Walker and Terrence Murphy, the Packers need to stockpile quality receivers this off-season. Re-signing Gardner would be a good start.

"If I stay here, I'm going to work really hard during the off-season," Gardner said. "I'll want to come in and have a really good training camp so I can help the offense."

So far, acquiring Gardner seems like solid move by Packers general manager Ted Thompson. We'll know a little more on Sunday.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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