GREEN BAY – Head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that first-year player Jason Chery will handle all kick and punt return opportunities in Thursday's preseason finale at Kansas City.
According to Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reporting from McCarthy's post-practice press conference via Twitter:
MM: Chery will handle all kick and punt returns vs. Chiefs. He can run. Has tremendous speed.
Chery served notice that he's a viable return specialist candidate in the third preseason game against the Indianapolis when he returned a fourth-quarter punt 75 yards for a touchdown.
In addition to his speed, which has been obvious since joining the Packers, Chery also showed good decision making by finding a crease, making one cut and running in a north and south fashion.
Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote on Twitter:
McCarthy said they clocked [Chery] from 4.29 and 4.32 [40-yard dash] in his workout
Chery has only been with the Packers since August 5 when wide receiver Jeff Moturi was placed on injured reserve and probably would have never even received an opportunity had fellow wide receiver Jeff Moturi not gotten injured.
The kick return candidate was originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers in 2009. He went on to spend time on the practice squads of both the Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers released him in June.
The more Will Blackmon struggles to come back from an ACL tear suffered last season, the more Chery figures to have a realistic chance at making the roster. Blackmon continues to have minor setbacks on his way to recovery this training camp including the Colts preseason game last Thursday.
McCarthy commented yesterday about Blackmon, "Didn’t come out of the game as well as probably everybody would have liked."
Chery received the first rep on punt returns at Monday's training camp practice and continued to rotate among a group that included both Jordy Nelson and Tramon Williams on kicks and punts. The first-year player fumbled one punt return opportunity.
Despite a golden opportunity in front of him on Thursday, Chery is not a lock to make the 53-man roster. Many factors will go into the decision whether or not to keep Chery including the health of Blackmon, how many wide receivers the Packers will keep and whether he's a better candidate to return kicks than Nelson, Williams or any other player.
On offense, Chery has only one catch for seven yards the entire preseason with that one catch coming this past Thursday against the Colts.