Ferguson steps forward

Robert Ferguson's performance in Saturday's preseason opener may not have been earth-shattering on paper, but for the second-year Packer receiver it marks a step in the right direction.<p>

Ferguson caught one pass for 8 yards and returned a kick for 11 yards. He appears to be okay after aggravating the through the groin injury that's bothered him during training camp. Most of all, he's just glad to be part of the picture.

"Last year I had a very, very, very rocky preseason where I didn't get a lot of playing time. I just want to go out and enjoy myself in the preseason, prepare myself for the regular season."

Even though his action is limited by the groin injury, Ferguson wants to make the most of the playing time he does see.

"I'm fine, I just tweaked my groin a little bit," Ferguson said. "It's just been something that's nagging throughout camp . . . As a player you have to go through that . . . I can't afford to take any days off. It's a situation where I have to go out and get better every day and try to help the team."

Ferguson has been making strides this summer after all but disappearing his rookie season. After a breakout 58-reception junior season at Texas A&M, Ferguson was selected by the Packers in the second round of last year's draft, only to suffer a rash of injuries. He encountered back pain during training camp, suffer a concussion and strain his quadriceps in the final preseason game and pull his left hamstring in December.

Already inexperienced, with only a single season at the Division I level under his belt, the injury-induced inactivity pushed Ferguson off the radar screen. He played in just one regular season game for the Packers, filling in as a punt returner after Allen Rossum went down with an injury of his own, and he left his first NFL season without an official reception.

Ferguson entered this year's offseason sessions and mini-camps, with a lot to prove. He has come a long way, playing his way into the team's No. 2 receiver position, which is where he started Saturday's preseason opener at Philadelphia. He's playing a major role in this group which coach Mike Sherman feels is shaping up nicely as the preseason progresses.

"At this point right now, I think our receivers are coming around. I think that was a group that was revamped and I think we're finding out that we have some pretty good players in that group," Sherman said. We have to get them healthy, but once we do I think we're going to have a good receiving corps."

At practice late last week, Ferguson got a taste of what a role in the receiving corps could be like.

Brett Favre showed off his MVP form with a spectacular play and made Ferguson the lucky recipient. With his receivers covered and the play breaking down, Favre rolled right out of the pocket before gunning a pass across his body, over defenders and into the arms of the receiver who was streaking down the center of the field some 50 yards away.

"I didn't think he was going to throw that ball and when he threw it my eyes got as big as those (camera) lenses right there," Ferguson told the media afterward. "I kind of understand now that no matter if you're on the back side or front side (of a play), just keep running, because he'll find you.

No matter what play we call, what side you're on -- back-side, play-side -- you always could be the No. 1 choice with Brett (as the quarterback)."

Ferguson is also showing what he can do as a return man. He shares the responsibilities with free-agent acquisition Darrien Gordon in practice.

"Any position that's open, Robert Ferguson is preparing as if he's (going) at that position," he said. "I want to do everything I can to get on the field because I have a bitter taste in my mouth from sitting on the sideline last year."

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