GREEN BAY – While Aaron Rodgers knows it’ll likely be some other NFL quarterback throwing to him this season, the Green Bay Packers quarterback had high praise for little-known wide receiver Chastin West Tuesday.
West, who spent all of last season on the team’s practice squad after signing as an undrafted rookie from Fresno State, is off to a very impressive start in training camp. But with the Packers’ remarkable depth at the position – Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, rookie Randall Cobb, Brett Swain and West appear to be the top seven, and the team figures to keep a maximum of six – West’s chances of making the 53-man roster seem remote.
Nonetheless, Rodgers put a plug in for West, impressed not only by his play so far in camp but the work he put in on the practice squad last season.
“I’m a big fan of Chastin West,” Rodgers said in response to a question about the young receivers he’s working with behind the top wideouts. “I mean, he’s really come a long way. I love watching guys who grow up on the scout team and then have made the most of their opportunities. And I’ve been fortunate enough in my three years as a scout-team quarterback (2005 through ’07) to work with a number of guys who either got activated or went on to other places and played.
“It starts with a work ethic in that scout team and wanting to prove yourself every day against the No. 1 defense. And Chastin really did that last year and opened some eyes. He’s come into this camp and had a great camp so far.”
West’s improvement has been noticeable even to casual sideline observers. But the depth chart being what it is, the Packers would have to make a bold move or trade to keep him if they only kept five receivers. If they keep six, he could be the sixth receiver instead of Swain, who suffered a hamstring injury in practice Monday night.
“Numbers-wise, you would think it’s pretty grim, but you still have to play because there are 32 teams that you’re auditioning for, including this one, and you have to keep that your main focus,” said West, who figures to see extended playing time in Saturday night’s preseason opener at Cleveland. “This team, they like to try and bring everybody up within. You saw that in the free-agency market with the Jets and the Eagles signing a lot of people. But we try to look from within, and that’s what helped us win a Super Bowl last year.”
West played in 36 games with 26 starts at Fresno State, missing his sophomore season in 2007 with a knee injury. He ended up catching 79 passes for 1,008 yards (12.8 avg.) and six touchdowns in three years, including 28 receptions for 429 yards as a senior.
He said he improved last season largely from going against the Packers’ top three cornerbacks – Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields – in practice on a daily basis.
“Going against 21 and 38 and 37 all the time, that makes you get on your game,” West said.
West said he traded text messages with Rodgers throughout the offseason as he worked to get a better grasp of the offense, but that Rodgers given him such high praise directly.
“I’m glad he thinks highly of me,” West said. “It’s my job to do what I can to return that.”
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