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Packers Daily Links: Slocum Won't Rule Out Shields On Punt Returns

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Packers Daily Links: Slocum Won't Rule Out Shields On Punt Returns

Returning kicks is one thing, returning punts is quite another. But according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, rookie Sam Shields could return punts as well as kicks. "Shields has only that lone return against the Cowboys on his NFL resume, but it was enough to convince McCarthy and Slocum to give him the job full time," writes Demovsky. "Slocum on Thursday said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility Shields could go back to returning punts, a far more dangerous job considering he would have to catch the ball in heavy traffic, unlike on kickoff returns where the defenders are far away." Shields should be used on punt returns only in an emergency or if the Packers are ahead by three scores or more. The Packers just can't afford the chance of a turnover.

Ryan Pickett's status for Sunday is still up in the air, but Thursday's practice report can only be taken as a positive sign. "The veteran defensive end did everything during practice and is confident he’ll be able to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson, who gashed the Packers for 131 yards in the teams’ first meeting," writes Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin. The Packers could use Pickett's services, but only if he's entirely healthy. Another setback would be counterproductive.

Rookie running back James Starks remains a long shot to play in a game. "Starks, a rookie sixth-round draft pick, is the No. 4 halfback behind Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance," writes Pete Dougherty of the Press-Gazette. "For Starks to get on the field, he’ll have to pass Nance or move up the depth chart because of injury, and even that doesn’t mean he’ll play much, considering Nance has had only a few snaps from scrimmage in his eight games with the Packers." Don't expect Starks to be active this week. He may get a chance eventually, but he needs more time to learn the offense and get ready for game action.

Tight ends Andrew Quarless and Spencer Havner aim to produce says Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel. "Quarless practiced in pads Thursday for the first time in three weeks and reported that his shoulder felt good," writes Silverstein. "He's going to be first in line to return the tight end position to respectability." Quarless may be the main receiving threat among tight ends, but Havner should help the team. If he can fill the same role he did last year and produce on special teams, he'll be a good pickup.

If you're looking for evidence supporting the play of kicker Mason Crosby, Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette has it. "It gets even tougher when Crosby tries so many long kicks. Only Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski has more field-goal attempts from 50 yards or longer since 2007," writes Vandermause. "Toss out Crosby’s 10-for-21 accuracy on career 50-plus field goals and his overall percentage rises from 77.2 percent to 83 percent." Crosby's 72% field goal rate isn't cutting it this year, although this stat on long field goals has tempered my opinion of Crosby slightly. That said, he still needs to improve upon that 72% before the end of the year, especially with several games in domes to close.

Defensive lineman B.J. Raji is profiled by Jason Wilde. "Having moved from end to his natural position of nose tackle in a flip-flop with Ryan Pickett during the offseason, Raji played 65 of 68 snaps in the Packers’ Oct. 24 victory over the Vikings, when Cullen Jenkins pulled a calf muscle in pregame warm-ups and Pickett re-sprained his troublesome ankle, leaving the Packers with only two other active defensive linemen," writes Wilde. "While the addition of veteran Howard Green has helped ease Raji’s workload, the coaches still want him on the field as much as possible." If Raji, Pickett, Howard, Jenkins, and C.J. Wilson can all be active and healthy at the same time, the Packers should have an effective rotation that keeps Raji fresh.

Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins goes into more detail about the Packers third down conversion rate. "(Head coach Mike) McCarthy said he went into the season using a larger volume of plays than he normally would, hoping to find more ways to get all his talented offensive players involved," writes Jenkins. "But as the Packers lost key players to injuries, including tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant, he had to act." The Packers don't have to convert 66% of their third downs to be successful like they did against the Cowboys in their last game. They just have to be above the 35% they were coming into the game.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is still concerned with the Vikings pass rush notes Kareem Copeland of the Press-Gazette. "The Minnesota Vikings rank No. 24 in the NFL with just 14 sacks in 2010," writes Copeland. "That’s an enormous drop-off for a team that led the league with 48 in 2010 and hasn’t finished a season ranked below No. 8 since 2007." Given the way the Packers offensive line has performed this year and the way Aaron Rodgers has gotten rid of the ball, I wouldn't expect any more than a nominal amount of sacks for the Vikings.

Sunday will be the 100th meeting between the Packers and the Vikings, and recent times have been particularly close. Of course, the Packers won 28-24 in the first meeting this season. "That marked the 14th time in the last 17 meetings that the game was decided by seven points or less," writes Mike Spofford of Packers.com.

Clay Matthews' possible hair endorsement deal and insurance is touched upon by Total Packers.

Dealing with the noise at the Metrodome is given some attention by Jason Wilde.

Thursday's practice report is brought to you by Bill Huber at Packer Report.

Invoices for playoff tickets are being sent to season ticket holders this week.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

JD's picture

Love Shields on kick returns, scared to death of him fielding a punt return.

WoodyG's picture

Shields has shown he's a quick study at CB ...... There's no reason to think he isn't a quick study as a returner, also .... Kick-offs first, punts later ..... It would be a shame to not take full advantage of 4.2 speed .....

bomdad's picture

Its not like he just started playing football. Other coaches have tried to use his speed. If he had good hands, he would not be a CB. Miami had to hand the ball off to him so he could make returns.

WoodyG's picture

There's a big difference between being a teenager & playing football & being an adult playing football coached by NFL coaches .... The fact that he didn't excell enough at Miami to even get drafted shows how colleges often fall short in their teaching/training efforts ...... Plus, players mature at different levels, both physically & mentally .... A big reason why many low-round draft picks & street FAs still go to the Pro-Bowl.

bomdad's picture

I get your point. He had a suspension in college.

RockinRodgers's picture

We should see how he does on kick offs and than decide on punt returns.

norman's picture

Agreed on the kick offs, good to see him getting another shot there after a disastrous preseason. I would hold off on the punt return duties though, probably until at least next year. Although if the Packers have a 3 score lead in the fourth quarter, it might not be a bad idea to give him one shot, assuming he's been getting time in practice fielding punts with gunners bearing down on him.

Asshalo's picture

If the coaching staff trusts Sheilds, letting him return punts could prove to be a GREAT move. He did it in college successfully, as Badger fans know. Sheilds is very quick in any direction and even quicker on turf. I say let him return kick-offs. I think he's earned a shot at more chances, I just hope he doesn't get his confidence hurt.

I hope Havner can keep up his Red-Zone production. Lord knows they need it, especially in the second half.

InFact's picture

Don't worry, Shields has as much a chance of returning punts in a Big Game like this one as Barbara Bush has in luring Tony Parker from Erin Barry.

SpiderPack's picture

Dude, I read 8hrs ago on JSOnline that Sam said he needed a whole lot more catches from punts b4 he would be given that punt return job. I'm sure I read S. Slocum or Sam saying it'll be next yr. Don't mean to back-slap you bc your summary's have been great. Thanx for all your help this year and for the review, but you're a bit behind the curve.

SpiderPack's picture

5 hrs ago. That's 4oclock eastern.

Brian Carriveau's picture

I just report on what I see, SpiderPack. Shawn Slocum did add any caveats. I can't read his mind.

TPacker's picture

Shields has been a gamer, nuff said.

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