GREEN BAY - A timeless adage in locker rooms across the National Football League states that special teams is the fastest way to the 53-man roster for young players. If you perform exceptionally well on special teams, there’s a chance of making the team regardless of what happens on offense or defense.
But there are exceptions to every rule, and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison was one of them last season. Allison, an undrafted free agent from Illinois, played just two snaps on special teams after being signed off the practice squad on Oct. 24 of last year.
“I think we were just kind of deep on special teams,” Allison said of his limited participation in 2016. “We had a good amount of (contributors) from our room for special teams. I just think the best ability to have is availability. The more you can do, the more value you bring to the team.”
That last bit is consistent with what Allison hopes is an expansion of his responsibilities this season. The Packers have experimented with Allison on nearly all of their special-teams units early in camp, and the hope for special teams coordinator Ron Zook is to find a niche that allows the second-year receiver to contribute during the regular season, doubling the value of his roster spot.
Last week, Allison played nine of the 25 total special-teams snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles across a variety of positions. He was used as a rusher on the punt return team, a gunner on the punt coverage team and a front-line player on the kickoff return unit. All of his snaps came with the backups, but there were only five players who took more reps than Allison, specialists aside.
“It’s been fun,” Allison said. “I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunities. I didn’t play many special teams (last year), but it’s something new for me. It’s another challenge.
“They have me in comfortable spots that fit my skill set. They don’t have me doing anything outside the norm where I’m uncomfortable with it. Every position that they put me in on special teams, it’s a movement that I’m used to doing. If it’s being athletic from a wide receiver standpoint, it transitions to special teams. I feel like I’m making the transition pretty good.”
At 6-3½ and 202 pounds, Allison is built differently than all of the Packers’ core special-teams players. Even compared to Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis — the other receivers with huge responsibilities for Zook — Allison’s body type is totally different.
It’s something Zook acknowledged when Allison was added to the 53-man roster last year.
“It’s a little different because he’s a long, high-waisted guy,” Zook said in late October. “He can do a lot of the same things that Jeff does, probably a lot of the same places: gunner on the punt team, he’s what we call lob or rob on the punt-return team, probably a tackle or more so on kickoff return. Kickoff we’ll just give him a spot and run down there real fast and try to make something happen. Since he’s been here he’s been a hardworking guy, a lot of effort.”
Though he played just two special-teams snaps all of last season — both against Washington — Allison said he continued to take reps on special teams during practice. So by the time training camp arrived, Allison was comfortable with his job descriptions on various units. He forced a fair catch as a gunner on punt coverage against the Eagles.
Allison is likely to make the team regardless of his contributions on special teams. But so far the Packers have given him plenty of chances to expand his repertoire.
“I feel improvement, definitely, I do feel improvement,” Allison said. “Just learning different techniques to help out and be more successful. And then learning the different schemes, too, that we try and do and how we try and block it. It makes your job a little more easier when you understand the origin of it and what you’re trying to accomplish.”