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Mucky Tundra  
#1 Posted : Sunday, July 20, 2014 5:53:46 AM(UTC)
Jason Wilde said:
GREEN BAY — In the unlikely event that he would have forgotten just how brutal last season was for him, Randall Cobb only needed to walk the halls of Lambeau Field en route to practice this offseason to be reminded.

"It feels good, not walking around on crutches, not rolling around on a Segway," the Green Bay Packers' fourth-year wide receiver said after using both those pieces of equipment while sidelined with a leg injury for most of last year. "Just being back at practice and being back with the camaraderie of the guys, it's just a great feeling to be back out there."

Cobb missed 10 games after sustaining a small fracture at the top of the tibia in his right leg, near the knee. Like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sidelined for basically eight games with a broken collarbone, Cobb came back for the regular-season finale at Chicago and caught a game-winning, last-minute 48-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to beat the Bears and send the Packers to the NFC North title and a playoff berth.

And as memorable as that play was — Cobb caught just two passes that day, both of them for touchdowns — the season on balance was a frustrating one. After starting the season with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games and finishing the first quarter of the season with 25 receptions for 325 yards and two touchdowns — putting him on pace for 100 receptions for 1,300 yards and eight TDs — Cobb went down on a low hit by Baltimore safety Matt Elam on Oct. 13. The Packers put him on injured reserve with the designation to return, but there was no guarantee he would indeed be activated.

And while he did return against the Bears and also caught two passes for 51 yards in the team's playoff loss to San Francisco, the season still felt like a lost year to Cobb, who'd led the Packers in receptions (80) and receiving yards (954) while adding eight touchdowns.

Knowing what he could have accomplished last year had he stayed healthy — and knowing he's in a contract year with a chance for a sizeable payday if he delivers — it was clear in conversations with Cobb during the offseason that he is ultra-motivated.

"I'm expecting myself to have a big year this year," he said. "So I'm just preparing myself day in and day out and doing everything to put myself in the best situation to be able to help this team and find a way to get to a Super Bowl."

The reason Cobb is so valuable to the offense — aside from the fact that he's simply an excellent player — is that he is extremely versatile and can line up in a variety of places, but also that the Packers offense doesn't have anyone who plays the slot receiver position as effectively as Cobb does. While rookie fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis has the look of an NFL slot receiver — Cobb himself said he sees a lot of similarities between Abbrederis and him, and Cobb has also taken the ex-University of Wisconsin star under his wing — he is still a third-day draft pick with a lot to learn before he can be counted on as a regular contributor.

At the same time, just as Nelson frequently lined up in the slot while Cobb was sidelined, Cobb believes he can be an effective outside receiver and does not want to be pigeonholed as only a slot player. The Packers intend to line him up in a variety of spots — in the slot, out wide, in motion, in the backfield — just as they have in the past.

"Not giving away anything whatsoever, I think he can play inside or outside. I think he can be utilized in a number of different ways," wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. "No doubt about it, he can play outside. He came into a similar situation playing outside and inside. It depends on what we ask him to do at the time."

Wherever he lines up, after what he endured last year, Cobb simply wants to be back on the field — making an impact.

"I feel great. I had a great off-season. We got a lot of work in this off-season. So I'm really excited to get back this season," said Cobb, who played 385 snaps (including playoffs) last year, as compared to 733 in 2012 (when he missed three games with a knee injury) and 309 as a rookie second-round pick in 2011. "Even me and Jordy as vets, we feel like we have something to prove every day and set a standard."
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