Packers release veteran wide receiver Ferguson

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers released veteran Robert Ferguson on Friday, ending the wide receiver's injury-marred career with the club.

"We thank Robert for everything he has given to the Packers," Ted Thompson, Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations said in a statement. "In addition to his contributions on the playing field, Robert has been a positive influence in our locker room and a good teammate. As with any veteran player who has been here, we wanted to make this move early because this gives him the best chance to catch on with another organization in the NFL."

Ferguson's departure was initially divuldged on Thursday when head coach Mike McCarthy said after practice that the team had decided to cut ties with the seven-year veteran, although he didn't say how that would be accomplished.

Ferguson, a second-round selection of the Packers in the 2001 draft, wasn't on the practice field for the second of Thursday's two practices. The Packers explored trade options for Ferguson, who was under contract through 2008.

"We're actually talking to a few teams about Robert. That's where we're at with him," McCarthy said between practices. "So, we asked him not to practice this evening."

Ferguson started 26 games in six seasons, but injuries kept him from staying healthy for a full season in recent years. The only year he played all 16 games was 2002.

He had a career-high 38 catches and four touchdowns in 2003, when he started 12 games.

The former Texas A&M standout suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 4 last season. He was lost to a knee injury in the final weeks of the 2005 season.

The most notable setback came late in 2004.

Then Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius laid out Ferguson with a clothesline hit as the receiver caught a pass from Brett Favre at Lambeau Field. Ferguson temporarily lost feeling in his extremities and was taken to a Green Bay hospital.

Ferguson suffered head and neck injuries and didn't play the remainder of that season.

The Packers had signed Ferguson to a four-year contract extension before the 2004 season.

On Thursday, he participated in the early walk-through portion of Green Bay's morning practice but was held out of the subsequent drills.

McCarthy said he met with Ferguson at 5 p.m. Thursday and informed him of the decision.

"Just like I told him today, I think Robert Ferguson's a talented young man," McCarthy said. "I thought he busted his (butt) the whole time he was here. I thought he was a true professional. But, we've gone in another direction. ... We're just moving on with the other guys."

Ferguson entered training camp faced with competition from several young receivers on the roster.

Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are the incumbent starters. James Jones, a third-round draft pick this year, has been impressive early in the preseason and appears to be the top candidate to win the No. 3 receiver spot.

The Packers figure to keep five or six receivers entering the season next month.

"We feel good about what the other guys are doing," McCarthy said. "I think Ruvell Martin's had an excellent camp. I think Carlyle Holiday has had a very good camp, and I think he really stepped out on special teams (in the first preseason game).

"As you get down the line, particularly in any position groups, the special teams are going to factor. That's every position."

Ferguson had two catches in the preseason opener, a 13-9 win at Pittsburgh.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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