|Finally back from bad breaks, Blackmon finally pays off for Packers|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 10 December 2007 11:39|
``They have a ticker at the bottom, and it says, 'Blackmon out for season,''' he said about the October incident.
Yes, the report downloaded from the Internet to his Xbox was real, but the information wasn't accurate, even though Blackmon called and needed reassurance from head athletic trainer Pepper Burruss.
``I asked him, 'Am I done for the year? ... for some reason, it's on my video game,'' Blackmon recalled. ``(He) told me I wasn't, so that was refreshing.''
Blackmon showed Sunday why the Packers never gave up on him this season, even if Madden 2008 did. It only took a tap of the speed burst button, and Blackmon's game-breaking punt return touchdown caught the Raiders by surprise.
Blackmon scored twice on special teams - for real - and fell on a fumble in the end zone that he helped pounce on to allow the Packers to clinch the NFC North title with a 38-7 victory over Oakland.
With the Packers clinging to a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, the Raiders got backed up deep in their end and had to punt to Blackmon, a cornerback who was pegged for the returner job in the preseason before his first injury. He was returning against the Raiders in part because of Charles Woodson's aching toe.
Blackmon took Shane Lechler's punt almost in full stride near midfield and was instantly beyond the first wave of tacklers.
``Really, really quick I saw a little path when I was chasing the ball down. Then I said, `If I catch this, I'm going to be good,' `` Blackmon said.
He did, and then did something else heady before sprinting down the right sideline. He slowed up just enough, moving toward the center of the field to get Lechler - the only player who had a real chance to tackle him - off-balance before cutting back hard toward the corner.
``It looked like he might have had a sideline return,'' Raiders long snapper Jon Condo said. ``I don't know, I didn't have a good view. The guy was on me right away.''
It appeared Blackmon stepped out of bounds around the 5, but he was quickly in the end zone for his first career touchdown and then immediately into the crowd for a Lambeau Leap.
The Raiders didn't challenge the play.
``I never saw it,'' Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said of Blackmon's errant step. ``Our guys upstairs, they didn't give us the replay in time. We didn't have a chance to see it, and when I saw the replay afterward it was too late.''
Blackmon, a fourth-round pick in 2006 from Boston College, had been an immensely talented disappointment in Green Bay before Sunday. He'd shown flashes of being a premier returner in practice, but played in only four games in his rookie season after breaking his right foot and later a rib that put him on injured reserve.
This preseason, he hurt his thumb and needed a cast before breaking his right foot again on Oct. 3, his fourth significant injury since being drafted, a span of 18 months.
But the Packers didn't give up on Blackmon returning this season even though they had plenty of opportunities to send him to IR, including when wide receiver Koren Robinson returned from a yearlong suspension.
Instead, Blackmon returned to practice two weeks ago and played primarily on special teams against Dallas. That's where he excelled again Sunday.
Blackmon's second score came on punt coverage; it was the first time the Packers scored twice on special teams since 1986 and he was the first Packer to do so since Travis Williams on Nov. 2, 1969, at Pittsburgh.
Jason Hunter forced Raiders punt returner Tim Dwight to fumble inside the 20, and Blackmon booted the ball, then juggled it before gaining possession by falling down in the back of the end zone to make it 31-7.
``For some reason, when the ball's bouncing, no one can ever pick it up,'' Blackmon said.
Once again, key players involved completely missed Blackmon.
``I just got up and went to the sideline, but then I heard the fans cheering and guys jumping up and down, and the reaction, and I looked around and I saw Will Blackmon in the end zone,'' Hunter said.
Now there's a question in Green Bay of who will be returning punts, Woodson or Blackmon.
``When we came out of the preseason, we really felt we had a two-headed monster in that particular area. Charles Woodson's outstanding in his decision-making and Will's obviously a young talent,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``As we move forward, that's how we'll evaluate it.''
McCarthy calls Blackmon one of the best athletes on the team and hopes he'll stay healthy for the postseason. Blackmon's just glad the organization trusted him.
``They believed something, they had faith in something,'' Blackmon said. ``I'm back to normal because I never got hurt in college, ever. I never had a serious injury. I think I missed one game in college and high school. For me to be back to normal, it's good.''