Robinson departs a winner

Troubled receiver's release shouldn't distract from how he took advantage of the second chance offered by Ted Thompson in 2006.

Good luck, Koren Robinson.

Who would have thought, back when the Packers signed the troubled receiver, that they'd be releasing him two-and-a-half years later because there was no room on the roster, rather than him getting into more hot water because of his drinking problem?

In a strange way, that makes Robinson's release from the Packers on Friday afternoon a piece of good news for both sides.

The Packers are deep at receiver, and the roster is talented enough that general manager Ted Thompson had the luxury of using his first draft choice to pick another.

With the addition of Jordy Nelson, Robinson was the odd man out, so Friday's transaction came as no surprise. As our Harry Sydney wrote, Robinson and Nelson are the same guy. They're both receivers with kick return skills. The difference being Nelson is younger and doesn't have Robinson's knee problems.

But on this day, the focus shouldn't be on the Packers finding someone younger and, presumably, better than Robinson. The focus should be on Robinson.

After all, Robinson's troubled career hit a massive detour on Aug. 15, 2006, while with the Minnesota Vikings. He was arrested for drunken driving and hitting speeds of up to 120 mph during a high-speed chase as he rushed back to training camp in Mankato, Minn., in hopes of making curfew.

With the specter of a one-year suspension looming because of prior problems with alcohol and the law, the Vikings released Robinson 11 days later. Thompson, who was part of the Seahawks' front office when Seattle drafted him in the first round in 2001, signed him after the Packers were shut out by the Bears in their 2006 opener.

It was a major gamble for Thompson. Remember, the Packers were coming off of a 4-12 season, and Thompson probably wouldn't have won the vote for dogcatcher for his perceived indifference to the needs of Brett Favre. The last thing Thompson needed was a player running afoul with the law.

"I'm not making excuses," Thompson said upon signing Robinson. "He's made some mistakes. But this is a good kid. He is a good character guy, for all intents and purposes."

The gamble didn't pay off, but it didn't blow up in his face, which is a credit to the Packers and Robinson.

Robinson was a nonfactor in 2006 because the NFL handed him a one-year suspension. He came back from that at midseason in 2007, and caught 21 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while averaging 23.8 yards on 25 kickoff returns.

The bad news is Robinson never recaptured his Pro Bowl form. But, the good news — the important news — is Robinson didn't botch his opportunity like so many before him have.

"Green Bay saved his career," Robinson's agent, Alvin Keels, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They took a chance when nobody else would have allowed him to get back on the football field. He's gone two years without any incidents. That goes a long way in how other teams view you."

Part of the credit goes to Thompson, who trusted his instincts on a player he'd grown fond of. And don't discount the Favre factor, either. Favre had battled some of the demons that plagued Thompson, and the two formed a bond.

"I don't like the way the league has, in my mind, turned their back on him," Favre said when the NFL suspended Robinson. "I'm not against banning him for the year. I'd love for him to play, but to boot him out, clean his locker out and say you can't have no contact with this team?

"I'm no expert, but I would think you would want for people to reach out to him and be within an organization that can help him as opposed to saying, ‘You're banned from the building. To make matters worse, we don't even want you over here, so go think about it and deal with it on your own.'"

Today, Robinson is on his own again. No doubt, his football career will continue. Hopefully, his victorious battle against alcoholism will continue, as well.


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