|Randall Cobb could be splitting return duties with Jeremy Ross. (US Presswire)|
For all of last year and the first half of this season, Randall Cobb had been a full-time returner and a part-time wide receiver. His first job was giving the Green Bay Packers good field position on special teams, his secondary responsibility was to catch passes on offense.
Of course, Cobb's role has changed drastically and quickly, as he's become one of QB Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets. He's the Packers' leading receiver, with 80 receptions for 954 yards and eight touchdowns.
But throughout his breakout second season, his value on special teams was not forgotten. Even while he was Rodgers' most-targeted receiver, showcasing his playmaking ability from the slot, he remained Green Bay's sole punt and kick returner.
Until last week, that is, when an ankle injury forced him to miss his first game.
Reserve WR Jeremy Ross, an accomplished return man in college at California, replaced Cobb. In one game and change, Ross has punt returns of 58 and 32 yards and a kickoff return of 44 yards.
McCarthy had been adamant that Cobb's dynamism played a major role in the improvement of Green Bay's special teams, which the coach said was the team's most consistent unit. Until this week, he'd sounded unwilling to replace Cobb with Ross.
But on Wednesday, McCarthy introduced a possible dual-returner scenario, utilizing both playmakers as deep men.
“I thought Jeremy Ross played extremely well, particularly in the return game,” McCarthy said. “And (using both is) definitely an option. You can't be naïve to the fact of what he accomplished the past two weeks in the return game, so that's something we've talked about and something we've prepared for.”
McCarthy added that CB Tramon Williams has been taking return reps, too, and is prepared for the job. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum said Wednesday that “we can use both guys,” referring to Cobb and Ross, and sounded impressed with the latter's ability and potential.
Cobb, who's had praise heaped on him by Rodgers and aspires to be a first-rate wide receiver, said he doesn't mind sharing the return duties.
“Jeremy had some great production the last two games, and I expect him to be out there, too,” Cobb said. “I don't know how it's going to turn out, but whenever our number is called, we'll be out there on the field.”
Driver's future uncertain: Most sixth- or seventh-string wide receivers don't get a ton of media coverage. But most of those players aren't Donald Driver.
The 37-year-old Packer has only caught eight passes for 77 yards (with two touchdowns) this season. He was a healthy inactive for the regular-season finale against the Vikings, passed over in favor of undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin.
But the 14-year veteran who won TV's “Dancing With The Stars” competition in the offseason isn't sure he's ready yet to hang up the cleats.
“I have to sit down with my wife and kids,” Driver said. “That's the toughest decision to make, and right now I haven't made that decision. I have to make that decision soon.”
Driver said he's still holding out hope he can contribute this season to the Packers' playoff run.
“When my opportunity presents itself, I'll be ready. I've always done it that way,” Driver said. “There's no need to try and change it. I mean, do you get frustrated? Of course you do. The competitive side comes out and you know you can still play. But it also is a business and sometimes you've got to look at the situation and your age catches up with you before your performance, and that's probably what happened to me, because I haven't lost anything."
Happy to be home: In their run to the Super Bowl two years ago, the wild card Packers didn't play one game at home. Last season, they lost in the divisional round to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.
Still, McCarthy said he was glad his team had accomplished the goal of getting a playoff game at home.
“Home-field advantage, I know statistically it may not be what it used to be, but to me there's no place better than to play at Lambeau Field,” McCarthy said. “I love everything about it. We feel it's an advantage -- we've got the crowd behind us, the surface that we play on … there's nothing like it. The field will be in great shape, it'll be a great atmosphere.”
Clements confirms Bears' request: On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Tom Clements confirmed reports that he had been asked to interview for the Chicago Bears' open head coaching position.
“The only thing I'll say is they requested permission, permission was granted, and that's it,” Clements said. “I won't comment beyond that.”
According to league rules, the earliest Clements could interview for the job with the Bears, who fired coach Lovie Smith on Monday, would be on Sunday, a day after the Packers play the Vikings.
Follow Packers reporter James Carlton on Twitter: @CBSPackers and @jimmycarlton88.