Ferguson a disappointment

Injury-prone wide receiver has never become part of the offense

I remember my first impression of Robert Ferguson.

One day after he took his pads off after a practice, Ferguson turned around and I thought I was looking at the second coming of Sterling Sharpe. He was chiseled, had good height and based off practices, he had speed.

His main obstacle at the time was going to be learning the offense.

After just one year of major college football – Ferguson spent two years at a junior college before attending Texas A&M – Ferguson was raw.

Nonetheless, I believed at the time picking Ferguson ahead of Wisconsin's Chris Chambers in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft was the right thing to do. Ferguson's future looked bright. He just needed to apply himself and his natural ability would take over.

Six seasons later, we're all waiting for that to happen.

Last week, Ferguson was placed on the injured-reserve list with a foot injury, ending his 2006 season. Counting this year, Ferguson will have played in just 28 of 48 regular-season games over the last three years.

Ferguson has become a tremendous disappointment for the Packers, who believed when he was picked he could be a regular starter in the NFL. It hasn't happened for many reasons.

After catching a career-best 38 passes for 520 yards and three TDs in 2003, Ferguson has been more injury prone than any other player on the roster. This isn't suggesting the guy's a wimp, he's played through injuries many players couldn't.

He has displayed a toughness few at his position have. But what bothers any Packers fan is his inability to become a vital part of the offense. When healthy, Ferguson never took advantage of opportunities.

He had a chance to become a starter in 2003 and started 12 games, showing promise. However, in 2004 Javon Walker burst onto the scene pushing Ferguson aside.

Ferguson then battled Donald Driver for a starting spot and we know how that went – Driver has become the go-to guy the last two seasons for Brett Favre.

While Driver, a seventh-round draft pick, who's slight of build has avoided injury and became a nice sports car, Ferguson has become a junker. He's banged up all the time, and when his motor does turn on he doesn't get too far.

Ferguson was drafted by Mike Sherman, who personally worked out Ferguson at his alma mater. Sherman may have showed biasness in picking Ferguson ahead of Chambers, but it's not like Wisconsin has been known for throwing the ball, although Lee Evans has been solid in Buffalo.

As it stands today, however, Sherman is out of Green Bay and Ferguson may follow him. Ferguson counts $2.5 million against the salary cap in 2007, and he's not worth it. With Driver and Greg Jennings starting, the Packers don't need to invest that much money on a role player, who can't finish a season.

Nonetheless, GM Ted Thompson said the Packers want Ferguson back in 2007. That's easy to say now, but do we believe him? No.

Not unless Ferguson agrees on a pay cut.

Ferguson becomes the second second-round pick at wide receiver in the last decade to flame out, following the footsteps of Derrick Mayes. Both players showed flashes of brilliance, but never maxed out their potential.

Ferguson's career has not gone the way I expected. He seemed to have everything physically to become a quality receiver. Instead, injuries and lack of production have made him a player that is expendable.

For his career, Ferguson has 116 catches for 1,577 yards and 12 TDs. That's over six seasons. Meanwhile, Chambers currently has 343 catches for 4,895 yards and 42 TDs, and that has come playing with the likes of Jay Fiedler and Joey Harrington, not Favre.

Looking back at the 2001 draft, I can now say Chambers, a Pro Bowler in 2005, was the better player. I didn't see it then, but I see it now.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

Packer Report Top Stories