Three players to share punt, kick return duties for Packers
OCT 04, 2013 3:31p ET
Eleven days after the Packers released Ross, it's going to take three players to fill that role.
"Really, it'll be situational," coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. "We're looking at Johnathan Franklin, Micah Hyde and Randall Cobb, so it's a game-plan decision based on when and where."
Cobb was Green Bay's primary returner the past two seasons, totaling 587 yards on 57 punt returns (10.3 average) and 1,905 yards on 72 kick returns (26.5 average). However, with Cobb's increasing importance to the Packers' offense, McCarthy used this past offseason to look at different options on special teams. Late last season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers also publicly stated his desire to get Cobb -- his top receiver -- off of special teams.
Ross, who had three years of experience returning punts and kicks in college at California, struggled in the first three regular-season games this season. When Ross misplayed a kickoff return and fumbled in Week 3, his time with Green Bay was ended the next day.
If Cobb fields any returns Sunday against the Detroit Lions, it won't be his first time involved in special teams this season. Cobb has already returned one punt for 16 yards and called for a fair catch on four others. He one kickoff return for 10 yards, as well.
It's possible, though, that Franklin and Hyde could save McCarthy from having to use Cobb in a full-time capacity on special teams.
"Let's be honest; we won't put anybody back there that we weren't comfortable handling the football," McCarthy said. "This process didn't just start this week. There's a whole group of returners. Jordy Nelson took return opportunities; Tramon Williams. They do it every single week. We don't ever try to lock it into one or two players. Randall still takes the normal flow of returns.
"I feel good about Micah and Johnathan."
Franklin struggled throughout training camp on punt return, often muffing the catch. But the rookie running back was much better on kick return, showing his ability in open space that led to him rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries in Week 3.
At UCLA, Franklin had only one kick return for five yards and never had a punt return.
Hyde wasn't prominently used in punt return until late in preseason this year, but the rookie cornerback displayed sure hands and good decision-making ability. Hyde was certainly helped by his college experience at Iowa, where he had 24 punt returns over the course of his junior and senior seasons for a total of 237 yards (9.9 average).
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