Punt returner Ross ready to prove himself

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jeremy Ross didn’t have a great first impression with the Packers.

It was Ross, a first-year player activated to the roster from the practice squad earlier this month, who was on the receiving end of the ill-fated punt return trick play in Chicago on Dec. 16. After Randall Cobb threw a cross-field backwards pass late in the fourth quarter of that game, Ross was unable to make the catch, leading to a Bears recovery with short field position.

“It was a tough situation when it happened, being that it was my first opportunity to do something,” Ross said Friday in the locker room.

But, after Cobb injured his right ankle and knee last weekend, Ross got a second chance to show the team and the Packers’ fan base what he can do. Ross made the most of it, fielding a punt in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans and returning it 58 yards all the way to the 7-yard line.

“It definitely builds your confidence,” Ross said. “It builds your confidence being able to have a run like that, especially in that situation. Being given an opportunity and where the opportunity fell, I think it was definitely encouraging for me going into this game; something to hang my hat on going into this week.

“I was going to forget about (the botched play in the Bears game) anyway, but now I have something to replace that bad situation with.”

Ross may have several more chances to prove himself this Sunday in Green Bay’s regular-season finale against the Vikings. Cobb is listed as questionable for the game, and if he’s out, Ross will again step to the front of the punt-return depth chart.

With Aaron Rodgers advocating that Cobb be taken off special teams, Ross could permanently become the Packers’ No. 1 option in the return game soon.

Even if Cobb — who leads the team as a receiver in yards, catches and targets — does continue as the punt- and kick-returner in the playoffs, he likely won’t be in that role next season. That means Ross could be auditioning for a full-time job in that spot.

“It would be great,” Ross said. “I wouldn’t be mad if it happened. I think it’d be a great opportunity and I would be more than happy to take that over, if that’s something that the coaches want to do. I’d be more than happy to be that guy to take over the returns.”

Though Cobb has since spoken more positively about a dual role in the offense and special teams, he did state on Sept. 6 that he hopes a different player eventually becomes the returner.

Ross has the credentials for it. He finished his college career at the University of California No. 2 in the program’s all-time punt return rankings with a 15.2-yard average.

But, like Cobb has successfully done, Ross believes he can transition one day into being a wide receiver, as well.

“I feel like I can play at this level at wide receiver,” Ross said. “I’m a learner and I’m always here to learn. I’m always going to get better. I don’t think I’m a guy who’s going to stay the same. I’m always going to adapt, and I feel like I can play at this level.

“I feel like I can play against all the defenses in the league, just given the opportunity to be out there, I think I can do it.”

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