Packers WR West makes case for roster spot
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have perhaps the deepest and most talented group of receivers in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers already has Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson back from last year's Super Bowl-winning squad. Playmaking tight end Jermichael Finley is returning from a knee injury and is ready to make a big push for a new contract. Then the Packers took promising Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb in the second round of the draft.
There just doesn't seem to be any room on the roster for Chastin West -- but that isn't stopping the unheralded wideout from stating his case.
West caught a 97-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Matt Flynn in the Packers' 28-20 preseason victory over Arizona at Lambeau Field on Friday, adding to what already has been a head-turning performance in training camp.
"I'm proud of Chastin," Rodgers said of West, who spent last season on the Packers' practice squad. "I think everybody saw toward the end of last year what kind of player he was becoming. He makes a strong case to be on this team. He's been making it since last year."
West is trying to win a roster spot, but knows nothing is guaranteed.
"I've just got to keep grinding," West said. "That's been my motto since the first week of camp."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said West looks like an NFL player, and his big play Friday only solidified that.
"I think Chastin's having a good camp," McCarthy said. "He was in the league last year, so I wouldn't have any reason to think he wouldn't be in this year. That'll definitely help. It was just a three-step drop and Chastin did a good job of running an adjustment, and (Flynn) gave him a good ball and he finished it."
West, an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, signed with the Packers last April. He was waived in the final round of roster cuts and then added to the practice squad.
Rodgers began his Packers career working with practice squad players on the scout team in practice, and still enjoys watching those unheralded players prove themselves.
"I'm very happy for him," Rodgers said. "It's nice when you've got a guy like him making those big-time plays. He ran away from that guy."
Packers coaches already knew West could run routes and catch the ball, but he showed something new Friday -- an unexpected burst of breakaway speed that got the best of a former college teammate.
"I don't feel bad, but it was on a former teammate," West said, referring to former Fresno State cornerback Desia Dunn. "I told him after the game, `Sorry I had to run away from you.' I've never had a chance to run out in the open field like that before. So I told him my speed kicks in after the 40-yard dash."
West said he hasn't made a play quite like that since his Pop Warner days.
"In Pop Warner I had a 99-yarder but that wasn't as exciting," West said. "That might have been in front of six people. They had a gated fence there so I might have gotten some lacerations if I would've done the `Lambeau Leap' there."
All three Packers quarterbacks walked away from Friday night's game impressed with West, including the one who threw him the ball.
"Chastin's had a great camp, and it showed," Flynn said. "He did a good job and showed some speed that we didn't know he had."
Graham Harrell said West has made a significant jump since last season.
"Chastin's had a great camp, and today was no different," Harrell said. "He's a really good player who's gotten a whole lot better from last year. He's played well for us."
And while West's solid camp performance could earn him a shot with another team if he doesn't make the Packers' final roster, he wants to stay in Green Bay.
"It's a great organization here," West said. "It's only my first organization but there's no question it's one of the best organizations in the league."
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Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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