The Green Bay Packers aren’t happy with their kick returners.
Jordy Nelson is averaging a team-high 23.7 yards per return, but fumbled twice in the Packers’ victory over the Detroit Lions. He was temporarily replaced by Pat Lee against the Washington Redskins, but Lee managed only 16.5 yards on two returns.
This week, the Packers brought in 34-year-old Green Bay native Aaron Stecker for a tryout, but didn’t sign him. Stecker played last season with Atlanta, the previous five in New Orleans and the four before that in Tampa Bay. He retired in April.
The Packers were looking at Stecker as a kick returner. Over his career, he’s averaged 23.1 yards per return and scored one touchdown. He had nine returns of 40 yards or more.
The Packers tried to sign Stecker before he signed with Atlanta, last season, but apparently didn’t see what they did then, this time around.
At the beginning of the season, the team seemed content to feature Nelson and running back Brandon Jackson as their returners after cutting safety Will Blackmon, who was widely considered the best returner on the roster.
With Ryan Grant on injured reserve, Jackson is now the Packers starting running back. While the Packers seem content to risk starting cornerback Tramon Williams on punt returns, they haven’t done so with Jackson on kickoff returns, despite giving him the bulk of the reps in the preseason.
So, that begs the question, why not bring Blackmon back and let him fill both duties?
It makes sense for two reasons.
First, the injury-ravaged Packers could take two starters out of harm’s way.
Second, the Packers can shore up their depth at safety, where both Morgan Burnett and Derrick Martin have been placed on injured reserve. With Blackmon, they also get someone who knows the scheme.
The only question seems to be whether Blackmon, who remains unsigned, is healthy enough to play. He missed much of training camp with a sore knee after tearing his ACL early in the 2009 season.
This probably all makes too much sense for Ted Thompson, however.
Update: Blackmon had this exchange via Twitter today.
_MiSs_cHeRyL: @willblackmon27 I’m thoroughly convinced that I’m somehow going to get a sit down with Ted Thompson and bring you back
willblackmon27: @_MiSs_cHeRyL well dont be, because there is a high demand for returners rt now, and somebody on the pack already has #27… hmmm
I asked him if that meant he wouldn’t come back unless he got #27. He didn’t reply, but it looks like there might be some hard feelings between Will and Ted, which totally surprises me.
Simple. Due to the injury settlement after they cut will, they can’t bring him back either until or after Week 9 of the season…
That’s true. The Packers did the proper thing by giving Blackmon a high settlement. But, of course NFL rules mean that is going to bite them in the ass.