Packers' Walker knows his time has arrived

By Lori Nickel

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Javon Walker has had one year to prepare himself. And he's lucky. Some first-round draft picks don't even get that.

Study hall, however, is over and it's now time to ace this test.

With a receiving corps that is badly banged up, what looked like a plentiful position for the Green Bay Packers is now ridiculously thin.


Top gun Donald Driver suffered a neck strain and a concussion in the season-opener against Minnesota, starter Robert Ferguson suffered a knee and a more serious ankle injury, fourth receiver Karsten Bailey hurt his hamstring and rookie Carl Ford was already on injured reserve.

In one quarter, Walker went from the No. 3 receiver to No. 1 on the depth chart.

"We can't just fold up," said Walker. "This isn't like high school or college, this is the NFL and we've got to make plays."

Walker vows he is ready for this promotion and could very well be the top receiver against Detroit this Sunday. While Walker's routes wouldn't change, he could be counted on to carry the West Coast offense against the Lions, who gave up 344 passing yards in a victory over Arizona.

There are a few indications that hint Walker is indeed up to the task, starting with his five catches for 84 yards against the Vikings, for a 16.8 average.

Trailing, 27-3, midway through the third quarter, the Packers began their comeback and in the last 10 minutes of the game Walker was more involved.

First, he reeled in a 14-yard pass from Favre on third down and that play eventually led to a touchdown by the Packers, which cut the lead to 30-18.

Walker had another 18-yard grab right after the Packers recovered their onside kick.


Toward the end of the game, with Driver in an ambulance and Ferguson writhing on the sidelines, Walker was Favre's lone regular target and maintained the consistency of his teammates, none of them dropping a pass.

Walker's last catch of the day was just before the two-minute mark, when he caught a 24-yard pass from Favre for a touchdown that cut Minnesota's lead to 30-25 after the extra point.

"He was No. 1 in the game at the end when it counted," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "Down by 24, to come back and make it a game where if we score a touchdown, we win the game, that's a positive thing.

"Does that make me feel any better today? No. But it would make me feel a . . . lot worse if it hadn't happened and I think Javon stepped up when the game was on the line and made some plays."

Walker could help himself by working on shaking off defenders slightly more to create separation. It's tempting to imagine what might have been on the Packers' second possession of the Minnesota game, when Favre had Walker one-on-one with a Vikings defender.

The long ball was thrown hard to Walker, but Walker wore his defender like a cape, and it was deflected and picked off by safety Corey Chavous.

But the game that really gives coaches promise is the Packers' playoff loss to Atlanta last season.

Walker led all receivers with 104 yards on five receptions and it was the first time a Packers rookie had ever posted a 100-yard receiving game in the team's playoff history.

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