If you don't believe me, here's what McCarthy had to say about Ferguson when asked about his future with the team:
"Fergie, I tell you, Robert Ferguson, I know there's been some criticism of him in the past, but I thought Fergie had an excellent off-season and training camp for us," McCarthy told a handful of reporters during a breakfast media session at the annual NFL owners meetings. "Frankly, I need him to do more on special teams. We need to use him more on special teams. Your third receiver plays 50% of your snaps. If you have 1,000 snaps in a season, 500 are going to be in sub. That's why on offense or defense you have 12 starters. Everybody wants to get into who runs out for introductions. I'm about to get rid of introductions, personally.
"But I look for him to compete to be the two or the three, however, you want to rank them, to be part of the base groups or the three-receiver groups. I really need him to step up and be a core player on special teams because I think he has the ability to be a Pro Bowl-type player in that area. He's a unique body type for receiver because he's a tough, son of a gun now. He can do a lot of things with his body type on special teams."
McCarthy, for the most part, talks of Ferguson in much the same way Mike Sherman did when Sherman selected Ferguson in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft. Since then, Ferguson has always been a try-hard guy, a player who keeps himself in tip-top condition, and has all the potential in the off-season. However, ever since his first mini-camp in Green Bay, all we have seen from him is getting injured and missing games. McCarthy knows that as much as Packers fans.
Ferguson played in four games last season before he was placed on injured reserve in October with a foot injury. Of 96 regular season games, Ferguson has played a total of 60 and started 26 for the Packers. His best season was in 2003 when he had 38 catches. Last season he had five catches.
So when McCarthy says that he looks for Ferguson to ‘compete to be the two or the three,' the coach is saying that he'll give Ferguson another chance in training camp … if the Packers don't trade him away before then, like on draft weekend of this year. Did McCarthy say that? No, but that's the between-the-lines interpretation here, and the way the situation seems to be headed.
All McCarthy can do at this point with Ferguson is pump him up and make him look as attractive as possible to other teams, so the Packers can hopefully get something, if anything, in return in a trade. Perhaps a late-round draft pick.
Ferguson is under contract with the Packers through 2008, and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.8 million this season. The chances of keeping on the books for that reason alone are slim, so if he's not traded before June 1, he might be dumped soon thereafter.
The Packers are expected by everyone to select a wide receiver on the first day of the draft, possibly with their first overall pick. With Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday, and possibly Koren Robinson returning early in the season, Ferguson is the odd-man out. If the Packers select a receiver like Ted Ginn, Jr. who can help immediately on special teams, Ferguson's value will plummet even faster. Do you really think the Packers will sit a first-day draft pick on the bench behind Driver, Jennings and Ferguson? Doubt it.
It's time for the Packers to move on without Ferguson. He has had many chances over the past six seasons to validate his potential, but has never been able to hold up under the conditions.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.