GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -The Green Bay Packers knew signing Koren Robinson was a gamble that almost certainly wouldn't pay off right away, if at all.
Now it's beginning to look like a jackpot.
Robinson, who returned from a one-year suspension under the NFL's substance abuse policy in October, had his best game yet for the Packers against St. Louis on Sunday, returning three kickoffs for a whopping 130 yards in Green Bay's 33-14 victory.
It was a breakthrough game for Robinson, who has fought through nagging knee soreness to gradually get back up to speed in the return game and on offense since his suspension was lifted.
``I think the rust is off,'' Robinson said. ``I'm definitely starting to get that back, just the feel of the game I believe is coming back to me.''
The slow progress was frustrating for Robinson, who had to remind himself it would take time to get back into football shape.
``I've always been able to do what I wanted to do on the field,'' Robinson said. ``And going through that, it was frustrating. But at the same time, I had to look at, 'Man, you just took a year off from playing football.'''
The Packers signed Robinson after he was cut by Minnesota last year, but he played in only four games before he was suspended by the NFL - and later sent to jail - for a pair of alcohol-related incidents.
Robinson came back vowing to recover, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and taking a drug that will make him sick if he drinks.
Now his personal life appears to be in order, and he's beginning to make an impact on the field, providing an extra boost to the 12-2 Packers going into the playoffs.
``I think Koren has improved over the last couple of weeks,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``I think he's comfortable now with the blocking in the return game. I thought our return game was excellent as far as the blocking, and he just shows you his big-play ability with the ball in his hands.''
McCarthy also wants to get Robinson more involved in the offense - he has 15 catches for 182 yards in seven games - but Robinson is willing to accept whatever role comes his way.
``In my situation, it's returning; it's making a big catch coming in as the fourth or fifth receiver, getting a first down; it's me just being on the sideline, getting people up or rubbing off on people with my attitude,'' Robinson said. ``I feel like all of it goes together.''
Robinson's success has been gratifying for quarterback Brett Favre, who felt a connection with Robinson because of his own history of abusing painkillers and alcohol and publicly lobbied the league to lift Robinson's suspension.
``I'm sure that a lot of people said, 'Cut ties with him, they need to ban him forever.' I'm sure there was not a lot of positive towards Koren,'' Favre said. ``Now, am I a little bit biased? Yeah - he was on our team. We elected to take a gamble with him, and I think that gamble obviously has paid off.''
Favre said Robinson's success on the field is directly related to his recovery off it.
``It goes hand in hand,'' Favre said. ``How you're leading your life off the field, how you want to be perceived. You know, we all want people to say good things about us and cheer for us and all, well, he's doing all the right things. And that is really good to see.''
Favre also is impressed by Robinson's talent.
``It doesn't seem flashy, but next thing you know he's at the 50, and he just has a knack for doing that,'' Favre said. ``The guy's a ballplayer.''
Packers special teams coordinator Mike Stock said Robinson was motivated Sunday because of a mistake he made in the Packers' previous game against Oakland.
``He's got a big-time incentive to be the guy that everybody's talked to him about since he had his Pro Bowl season,'' Stock said. ``The week before, he had trouble catching the ball on the opening kickoff return of the second half, and I think he was a little embarrassed.''
As a result, Stock said, Robinson was focused in practice last week.
``I think that was on his mind all week long,'' Stock said. ``So he came prepared, practiced catching the ball all week long in preparation for this game, and I think it showed. He's very serious about it.''
Robinson made the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2005. Can he get back to that level?
``If we can continue to block for him, I think those things are possible,'' Stock said.
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