Ferguson's last chance

The fourth and 26 playoff game loss to the Eagles in early 2004 was devastating in many respects. The Packers lost their chance to go to the NFC championship game and Mike Sherman started to lose his team.

Very few bright spots can come out of a tough loss like the one experienced in the city of brotherly love that day. One such bright spot that afternoon was the play of wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Ferguson had two touchdown catches that day and his future was looking bright. He was coming off his best season as a pro with 38 receptions and four TD catches in 2003. Nothing much has gone right for Ferguson since that day and he is running out of chances to remain a Green Bay Packer.

Ferguson also must live in the shadow of Chris Chambers. When Ron Wolf picked Ferguson over Chambers in the 2001 draft many people were puzzled. Wolf was lobbied hard by head coach Mike Sherman to take Ferguson and Wolf last year admitted it was a mistake. Wolf didn't make many mistakes in evaluating talent, but this might be the biggest one he ever made.

Ferguson didn't even catch a ball his rookie year as he was not prepared for life as a NFL wide receiver. Over his career, Ferguson has 111 receptions for 1,546 yards and 11 touchdowns. Compare that to Chambers, who has become one of the elite wide receivers in pro football. Chambers has 315 career pass receptions for 4,596 yard and 39 touchdowns. Chambers has had three times the production as Ferguson.

Ferguson has had more than production problems. The former Texas A&M receiver seems to always be injured. Ferguson suffered a vicious clothesline tackle injury late in 2004 and he was basically ineffective in 2005 with just 27 receptions and three TD catches. Ferguson is keeping his injury status consistent as he is hampered by a back problem coming into 2006 training camp. But Ferguson has possibly injured more than that by his past play. That would be the confidence that Brett Favre has in him.

Favre gives his wide receivers opportunities to make plays. Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Andre Rison, Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver and Javon Walker all had Favre's confidence in making plays when it counted. Ferguson does not fall into that category. Although he has good size at 6-1, 210 pounds, Ferguson usually loses the battle to catch passes against defenders. He also has been known to run the wrong routes (ala Bill Schroeder). More than once last year we saw Favre having some pointed words for Ferguson after interceptions and the like.

Ferguson has been a Green Bay Packer for five seasons. Five less-than-mediocre seasons. The 2006 season will probably be Ferguson's last chance to make an impact in Titletown. But based on his track record, the odds would seem slim. The Packers have brought in a lot of young wide receivers to win roster spots. Underachievers like Ferguson and Rod Gardner can't just go through the motions and expect to make the team. In fact, I predict that rookie Greg Jennings will be more productive than either Ferguson or Gardner.

Ferguson has one last chance. One last chance to be the player he always says he can be. A playmaker. A difference maker. An all-pro. The bottom line is that talk is cheap. It only matters what one does on the gridiron. Ferguson can quiet his critics with inspired and productive play in 2006. Let's hope he doesn't drop his last opportunity to be the player that Wolf and Sherman believed in 2001.

Note: Bob Fox is a longtime Packers fan and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.

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