Blackmon, Swain Form Bond On Comeback Trail

Special-teams stalwarts Will Blackmon and Brett Swain practiced for the first time since suffering season-ending knee injuries last year. Blackmon is making the move to safety while Swain is fighting to retain his roster spot.

Brett Swain walked across the locker room and gave a congratulatory fist bump to Will Blackmon.

"Great practice," Swain said.

Swain and Blackmon, two core members of the Green Bay Packers' special teams, are coming off of season-ending torn ACLs. On Saturday, they were on the practice field for the first time since those injuries.

"All of us who are going through the same injury have created a little bond," Swain said. "Every day, we see each other and we're doing the same things. It's a lot easier to get through an injury when you're encouraging and behind people who are going through the same things."

Blackmon's return is especially vital for the Packers. In 2007 and 2008, he returned three punts for touchdowns and also was the primary kickoff returner. Without him last year, the Packers fielded one of the worst punt returns in the NFL. On Saturday, he was fielding punts and exploding after the catch as if nothing had happened on that fateful night at Minnesota on Oct. 5.

"I feel good. Still catching the ball," Blackmon said. "It was a cool day to finally get out there and move around."

Blackmon was held out of the offseason practices, which would have been a critical time to get acclimated to his move from cornerback to safety. Day after day during OTAs and the minicamp, Blackmon stood behind the defense and took mental reps. Finally, he was taking live reps, even replacing Pro Bowler Nick Collins with the first unit for a snap.

"It was cool. I was out there just playing fast," Blackmon said. "The best thing though, I learn better being out there. It's funny: You can study all you want in the playbook and watch film, but it's a whole new world. But I did all right. I played fast and I wasn't out of position too much. It was finally good to be out there."

Safety seems to be a good fit for Blackmon. At 6 foot and 210 pounds, Blackmon is 12 pounds bigger than when he entered the NFL. Safety is a thinking man's position, and Blackmon is one of the most intelligent players in the locker room.

"It's a team sport, so you need that chemistry and you need to be in synch with everyone else, so it's a whole other element. It was better than I thought it would be," Blackmon said.

Swain enters this camp fighting to retain his spot on the roster. Last year, he beat out popular veteran Ruvell Martin to be the fifth receiver because of his play on special teams. That move paid immediate dividends when he stopped a fake punt against Chicago in the opener. At Cleveland on Oct. 25, Swain tore his ACL while covering a kickoff. Now, he has to hold off the likes of Patrick Williams to keep his job.

"It was a good first day," Swain said. "You've got to get the rust off a little bit. I'm just staying the course and not trying to do too much on the first day. If you go out there all-out on the first day, you could run into some problems further down the road. Most of the time, you're just out there playing ball and putting it all on the line. I feel like the first day went really well."

Sitting about 10 feet away from Swain was veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher. At this time last year, Tauscher was rehabbing the ACL he tore in December 2008. So, he knows what Blackmon and Swain — and Al Harris — are going through as they are on the comeback trail.

"You know, I think the big thing is be patient. Don't think you have to do everything right away," Tauscher said. "I know that the doctor is conservative with some stuff but he's got your best interest in mind. Not everything comes back just like that. It takes a little bit of time. The program that they put up here is as good as it gets for rehabbing a knee and not forcing you out there for double days and allowing it to swell. You go out, get your work done and then you recover."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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