Are Ferguson's days numbered?

Gone is Javon Walker. Gone is Antonio Chatman. Gone, too, is Terrence Murphy. Before the season kicks off, will Robert Ferguson have joined the list? To be sure, Ferguson offers the Packers a rare bit of experience for a wide receiving corps that includes Donald Driver and a bunch of guys greener than the Lambeau Field turf.

But Ferguson's career has been a major disappointment since being drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft by then-coach and general manager Mike Sherman.

Last season, when he was desperately needed with Walker out for the season, the injury-plagued Ferguson played just 11 games — with a mere seven starts — and caught 27 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. His career high for catches is just 38.

Ideally, Ferguson would finally break through in 2006, give the Packers a major complement opposite Driver, and improve what last year was a woeful offense.

But if Ferguson hasn't lived up to his billing after five years, why would general manager Ted Thompson expect anything different this season?

Besides, the Packers are in rebuilding mode — building a team in the mold of Thompson and new coach Mike McCarthy. So why not go with a younger player who has the potential to develop into someone more explosive and reliable than Ferguson?

"It's our first year. Everybody's got a clean slate," McCarthy said, presumably tossing Ferguson's disappointing first five seasons into the waste basket.

Of course, the Packers are in the business of winning football games, and they won't get rid of Ferguson unless they can find someone who's clearly better to put in the starting lineup. And therein lies the big question: Will someone among Rod Gardner, a first-round disappointment with the Washington Redskins; Marc Boerigter, who has great size but put together four underwhelming seasons in Kansas City; rookie draft picks Greg Jennings (second round) and Cory Rodgers (fourth); or youngsters like Chad Lucas (NFL Europe touchdown machine), Leo Bookman (former NCAA sprint champion) or Ruvell Martin (who at 6-foot-4 has flashed plenty of potential at the minicamps and OTAs) emerge as a player worthy of taking Ferguson's spot in the starting lineup?

"This offense is really designed for me, for my strengths. Intermediate routes, getting the ball, making somebody miss and getting up the field." Ferguson said.

True, but Gardner, Boerigter, Bookman and Martin are bigger guys, and Jennings and Rodgers, by virtue of their draft position, are all but locks to make the final roster.

Nonetheless, while Thompson and McCarthy are building a team with their guys, they won't get rid of Ferguson if he emerges from training camp as the Packers' second-best player. While all of the aforementioned players have the tools to become productive NFL players, do any of them have what it takes to start right away?

Only time will tell, but Ferguson had better realize that his NFL career could be on the line this off-season.

Talking about Martin the other day, Driver offered a word of warning that Ferguson had best heed:

"Just because they're vets doesn't mean they're guaranteed a spot."

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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