GREEN BAY, Wis. — Randall Cobb is only 456 yards away from history. The Packers’ talented second-year wide receiver, kick and punt returner has a realistic chance to become the NFL’s single-season leader for all-purpose yards.
After a career-high 115 receiving yards in Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, plus 35 return yards, Cobb’s season total for all-purpose yards is 2,241.
“There are so many great players who have come through (the NFL), and it’s definitely an honor to be mentioned in those names. But I’m a championship guy,” Cobb said. “I’m worried about a championship. Records can be broken, but you can’t take championships away.”
Last season, New Orleans’ Darren Sproles broke the record for all-purpose yards that had been held by Derrick Mason for more than a decade. Sproles finished with 2,696 total yards, the biggest chunk of them (1,089) coming from kickoff returns. He added 710 receiving yards, 603 rushing yards and 294 punt-return yards.
The vast majority of Cobb’s yards have been from kick returns (964) and receiving (892). He also has 253 punt-return yards and 132 rushing yards, but he’s not worried about wearing down while the Packers’ other big-name receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, have been in and out of the lineup with injuries all season.
“Football wears on you regardless of what position you play,” Cobb said. “I’ve maintained my health for the most part throughout the season, so I’m just trying to finish strong and hopefully be out there for another six weeks and a little relaxation after that. But right now, it’s time to grind.”
Cobb, a second-round pick in 2011, is averaging 160 all-purpose yards per game this season. If he continues at that pace in Green Bay’s final two regular-season games, he’ll fall 135 yards shy of Sproles’ record.
Though Cobb is coming off his two biggest yardage games as a receiver, he hasn’t been used in the running game since Dec. 2. When Cobb was being handed the ball more often earlier this season, he produced a 13.2-yard average in his 10 carries.
Cobb, however, has become more vital to the Packers’ passing attack, leading the team in receiving yards for three consecutive games. That has limited him in other areas.
“You’ve got to be smart, too,” coach Mike McCarthy said last week. “He has a lot of responsibility how we use him. I don’t want to overexpose him.”
Cobb seems to have cast aside similar concerns, however.
Cobb on Sept. 6: “Hopefully, at some point I’ve validated myself as a receiver where a younger guy can take over that (kick- and punt-return) role.”
Cobb this week: “I want to continue to contribute any way I can. As long as the coaches are with it, I’m with it. I want to be on the field as much as I can. I think it would be hard for me (no longer being a returner) because I love being on the field. I love playing football. I understand the reasoning, and maybe at some point it will the best thing for the team or me, but right now I feel like I can handle the duty. As long as Coach thinks I can handle it, we’ll be fine.”
Cobb attends meetings with the offense and special teams but said he dedicates 70 percent of his studying time on offensive schemes.
To set the NFL record for all-purpose yards, Cobb will need to have an impact on special teams in the final two games. He had a season-high 156 kick-return yards in Week 12 but hasn’t had a game with more than 20 yards on punt returns since Week 9.
If Cobb does break the record, it won’t be much of a surprise to McCarthy.
“Just from the day that Randall Cobb walked through our doors, you knew he was going to be a multiple-dimension-type player,” McCarthy said. “He had played quarterback in college (at Kentucky). He understands the football intricacies, getting in and out of concepts. Football, in my opinion, comes very easy to him mentally.
“We’ve always based it on doing as much as we can with him. We really created that in the offseason. The number of things we put in during training camp, and there’s a number of things we haven’t really got to yet.”
Cobb has quickly ascended this season as quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ new favorite target. Not only does he lead the team in catches and receiving yards by a significant margin, but the 99 passes thrown his way are 18 more than the next-most-targeted Packers receiver.
“I think he’s an incredible player,” Rodgers said. “He conducts himself the right way, and he really stands for everything that we want a Packer player to stand for. He’s been in the community, he’s a good teammate, cares about the game, conducts himself the right way, he’s a professional and he’s got a chance to really do some incredible things here.
“He’s a big-time player. He’s having a heck of a year.”