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Return competition heats up in wake of Cobb's injury

Aug. 14, 2013
 
Green Bay Packers Jeremy Ross (10) tries to get away from Arizona Cardinals cornerback Javier Arenas (35) after making a catch in the second quarter during Friday night's preseason game at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay Packers Jeremy Ross (10) tries to get away from Arizona Cardinals cornerback Javier Arenas (35) after making a catch in the second quarter during Friday night's preseason game at Lambeau Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

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Opportunity continues to knock for Jeremy Ross and the rest of the Green Bay Packers’ return candidates.

Following practice on Wednesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the team plans to shut down Randall Cobb for the next two days with the bicep injury he’s been playing through, adding that the 22-year-old receiver would be “stressed” to play in Saturday’s preseason game in St. Louis.

That means Ross, running back Johnathan Franklin and receiver Omarius Hines should get another long look after handling return duties for Cobb during Friday’s 17-0 loss to Arizona.

Ross, who is also vying for a role at receiver, was used strictly in a kick return capacity in the loss, receiving two kickoffs for 44 yards, with Franklin and Hines each handling a kickoff and punt, as well.

The Packers have issued the challenge several times this offseason for hopeful returners to decide if Cobb is pulled off special teams through their play on the field.

As recently as July 31, McCarthy said he’d use Cobb as his returner if the Packers “were going to play a game tomorrow," but that sentiment could change with injuries mounting in the receiving corps and Jordy Nelson already out for the rest of training camp after undergoing a knee procedure.

During Wednesday’s practice, Ross was again the first returner fielding kickoffs and punts, followed by Franklin, Hines and recently signed receiver Justin Wilson.

Should he be called upon for either duty this Saturday, Ross says he’ll be ready.

“If that's the case, I'm ready. I feel like I get a lot of repetition at that position,” Ross said. “If it comes down to my number being called and me having to do that, I will be more than happy to and be more than ready.”

Franklin, a rookie running back out of UCLA, remains an intriguing option after fielding the first kickoff in Friday’s game, but is new to the job and lacks Ross’ experience and polish.

The second all-time punt returner in University of California history, Ross supplanted Cobb late last season following an ankle injury, but there’s still plenty of more data to be collected.

“We still have not made a decision on how we’re going to handle the return game,” Packers special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “We have a number of guys here in camp, starting with Randall and Jeremy who did it for us last year, and we’re still looking at some of the other guys as we get all the information based on the whole picture.”

As it pertained to the team’s kicking game, Slocum was happy with the recent performance of both Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio, who made 31-of-32 kicks in practice this week after not seeing the field in Friday’s shutout.

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Get Green Bay Packers updates as they happen from our reporting team: (from left) Mike Vandermause, Wes Hodkiewicz and Pete Dougherty.

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