It’s usually pretty hard to pay attention during a Mike McCarthy press conference. That’s because – as is the case with any coach not named Rex Ryan – he seldom says anything interesting. But that changed on Monday when McCarthy mentioned Greg Jennings and Tramon Williams as potential punt returners for the season opener at Philadelphia. In fact, I was so shocked I had to read the transcript to make sure what I heard was what I thought I heard. It was. Here’s what he said: “[Jordy] Nelson, [Brandon] Jackson are kickoff options. Tramon Williams and, yup, Greg Jennings options on punts.”
You have to believe McCarthy won’t actually use Jennings on returns, but just the fact he’s even thinking about it tells you how badly this team needs to sign a specialist to replace Will Blackmon. Former All-Pro Clifton Smith is available after being released by Tampa Bay. If healthy, he’d be a great acquisition. So what’s the problem? I’ve long believed Thompson doesn’t want to waste a roster spot on a player who can’t contribute at a position. That makes some sense until you really think about it. Breno Giacomini was a position player who didn’t play for two seasons, and Nick McDonald is a position player who almost certainly won’t play in 2010.
If the goal is to win this season, wouldn’t a quality returner help more than a 10th lineman? Unless Williams is the second-coming of Deion Sanders, he has no business returning punts. On second thought, even if he is the next Sanders, he still has no business returning punts. Not when an undrafted rookie is the No. 3 cornerback. I’ve been ranting about the need to acquire a quality returner since Blackmon got hurt last season. It apparently isn’t going to happen, so rather than continuing to bang my head against the wall, I’m going to give this topic a rest (until, of course, Williams turns an ankle returning a punt and the Packers are forced to play both Shields and Jarrett Bush in the nickel).