Thus far, Carlton Brewster appears to be another one of the few who will use the 10-week season that is under way overseas as a stepping stone to a 53-man roster, whether it is in Green Bay or elsewhere. He will, at the very least, have a running start heading into training camp, which is more than most NFL Europa players will ever get. The receiver is making waves for the Berlin Thunder this spring, leading the league in receiving, and more importantly, gaining valuable experience in game situations.
Brewster was acquired by the Packers in a trade with Cleveland late in training camp last August. He then was released in the team's final cutdown, a surprise to many, but re-signed to the team's practice squad where he spent the rest of the season.
The Packers are quite familiar with Brewster, and the experience that he is gaining in Europe this spring will help him in much the same way it did with Bill Schroeder in 1997.
Remember Schroeder? The Sheboygan, Wis., native spent time on Green Bay's practice squad for a few years, sandwiched around a season in New England where he was on injured reserve with a foot injury that he sustained in camp. The Packers shipped Schroeder to the then-named World League in 1997 where he finished second in receiving yards (702) and second in receptions (43) for the Rhein Fire. He also caught six touchdown passes.
Schroeder's experience abroad ultimately helped him land a roster spot after training camp that same year. He played in 15 games and served as the team's main punt returner, averaging 10.4 yards per return. By the way, the Packers haven't had a punt returner with a double-digit average since then.
Brewster will have his work cut out for him when he returns to the states. The Packers loaded up at the receiver position by selecting James Jones (third round) and David Clowney (fifth round) in last weekend's NFL draft. They will be competing for spots with incumbent starters Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, and reserves, Ruvell Martin, Robert Ferguson, Carlyle Holiday, and Chris Francies. Also, veteran Koren Robinson is expected to be activated once his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy expires near the end of September. The Packers usually keep five receivers, sometimes six, on their 53-man roster.
Brewster impressed coaches last year with his ability to return punts and catch passes during his brief stint in training camp. He will be considered a longshot to make Green Bay's roster this year, but he is undoubtedly catching the eyes of Packers player personnel and coaches with his performance on a different continent. That may be enough to continue his football career this fall with the Packers.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.