Packers land punt returner Darrien Gordon

The Green Bay Packers today addressed their needs for a punt returner by signing free agent Darrien Gordon, the NFC's punt return leader in 2001.<p>

Gordon, 31, is entering his eighth season. He averaged 14.1 yards for 31 punt returns as a member of the Atlanta Falcons last year. The Packers had been seeking a punt returner since Allen Rossum signed a free agent contract with the Falcons in March. The Falcons parted with Gordon because he is not as talented a defensive back as Rossum.

Last year, Rossum was injured most of the season and the Packers punt return game suffered as a result. Green Bay ranked near the bottom two or three teams in punt return average throughout the season and finished with an overall average of 7.6-yards per punt return.

"He'll bring experience to that position. Not only is he extremely capable of generating excellent field position for us....he makes good decisions," said Packers special teams coach Frank Novak. "He knows when to catch the ball, when to let it go. He will direct traffic back there with his people that are protecting for him as to when the ball is short and they have to get away from him. He's been doing this for a long time and he's done it very well, so we're very happy to have him.

"He will solidify an area that became weak when we lost Allen Rossum, and became unpredictable. ...He is a guy that will bring some credibility to that position, mainly because he's been in the league, he's done it for so long and he's done it well. Maybe he doesn't have the burst he had when he was young, but he can make the first guy miss and generate good field position for us...He had a great year last year with Atlanta."

Gordon has played for four teams, including three Super Bowl teams. The 5-11, 190-pound Oklahoman helped the San Diego Chargers reach Super Bowl XXIX following the 1994 season and the Denver Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, the first of them against the Packers.

Overall, Gordon has played in 12 postseason games and has accumulated 200 yards with 21 punt returns, a 9.5-yard average.

Gordon has a 12.3-yard average for 279 career regular-season punt returns. In addition to pacing the NFC in punt returns last season, he also has been the AFC's season leader twice - in 1994 with San Diego, when he averaged 13.2 yards for 36 runbacks, and in 1996, when he averaged a career-high 14.9 yards, also on 36 returns.

Gordon, who also has been a starting cornerback for 65 regular-season games, holds - career Super Bowl records for most interception return yards, 108, in SB XXXIII against the Atlanta Falcons January 31, 1999. He is the possessor of 5 career postseason interceptions, with 156 total return yards.

Additionally, he shares NFL single-game regular-season records for most touchdowns by punt return, 2, and most touchdowns by combined kick return, 2, posted with Denver on November 9, 1997, against Carolina.

The Shawnee, Okla., native had his most productive year as a returner in 1997, amassing a career-high 543 yards on 40 returns (a 13.6-yard average) while a member of t he Broncos.

Gordon was San Diego's first-round selection in the 1993 NFL draft, the 22nd player chosen overall. He spent his first four years with the Chargers, sitting out the entire 1995 season with a shoulder injury. Subsequently granted unconditional free agency February 14, 1997, he signed with Denver on April 30 of that year, and started 22 games for the Broncos over the 1997 and 1998 seasons, including all 16 games in '98. He signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in February of 1999. He was released by the Raiders March 1, 2001, and signed on with Atlanta, playing in all 16 games for the Falcons last season, posting 1 interception as a defensive back, in addition to leading the NFC in punt-return average.

In another transaction, the Packers have placed linebacker Cornell Menafee on waivers.

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