GREEN BAY, Wis. — At the start of training camp, the Green Bay Packers were hoping that someone would perform well enough that Randall Cobb could be removed from special teams return duties. Jeremy Ross is getting very close to allowing the Packers to do just that.
“I think Jeremy has an excellent chance,” coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday.
Two weeks ago, McCarthy had a much different message.
“If we were going to play a game tomorrow, Randall would be my returner,” McCarthy said July 31.
There’s no denying Ross’ ability in the open field. He has a knack for the type of big plays that create memorable special teams highlights. The problem has been in his lack of consistency, both as a wide receiver and on special teams.
“I just want to see him have those games where it’s A through Z, just put that game together where he handles the ball 100 percent,” McCarthy said. “Just have a complete game. There’s just kind of been that one (negative) play per game, and that’s kind of the path you go with young players. That’s the hump that you want to see him get over.”
Ross is well aware of his own shortcomings. It’s not a secret to Ross that he would be a more obvious choice in the return game if not for the mental gaffes that he is too often a self-inflicted victim of.
“For me, it’s just coming out there with a level of focus every day,” Ross said. “The times when I don’t take those steps each time, that’s when the mistakes end up happening and that’s when the inconsistency comes in. It’s just matter of going out there and not getting lazy mentally, constantly staying focused. I think if I do that, I’ll be way more consistent.”
Ross has suffered from too many drops as a wide receiver in recent practices, but he’s been solid on special teams. And while the Packers certainly wouldn’t mind him being a dual-threat player, Ross will prove his value to the team if he can take the final step over the three remaining preseason games and lock up the return role.
“The opportunity is definitely there for me to take,” Ross said. “I think this will be a good week to get some opportunities to show that, hey, I deserve this job. It’s an opportunity for me to earn it.
“I’m just going to go out there and try to get it, try to take it.”
With Cobb’s biceps injury making him unavailable for Saturday night’s preseason game in St. Louis, Ross will get a shot at earning the job on a full-time basis.
“I want to show them that I can make plays, that I can be explosive when the ball is in my hands,” Ross said. “I definitely want to make a lot of memorable plays out there. But I think the biggest thing is being consistent while I’m out there.”
There is no play in Ross’ short career in Green Bay that has been replayed more than his dropped punt in the Packers’ divisional-round loss to the San Francisco 49ers last season. So, when Ross saw Green Bay’s 2013 schedule began with a trip back to San Francisco, he envisioned what it could be like if the opening kickoff is sent his way.
“I think about it all the time,” Ross said. “To go out there and sort of have some redemption. Not going out there with a clumsy mindset of just ‘No matter what happens, I’m going to make this big play,’ but being smart. Not letting the circumstances, the environment, where we’re playing, who we’re playing, dictate my play. But just going out there with the same mindset, focusing on the fundamentals and techniques.”
McCarthy is coming around to the idea of letting Cobb exclusively focus on offense, where the 22-year-old led the Packers in multiple receiving categories last season. But without Ross to fall back on, McCarthy wouldn’t have that option.
“Jeremy makes a play every day,” McCarthy said. “He does things every day at practice that get you excited about him. That’s what I’ve always liked about him.”