Read here from Bob McGinn this morning. Once again, TT has gone after the fastest player who was available in the draft – though Sam Shields signed as a free agent. Clocking in at 4.30 in the 40 – not bad but not quite the 4.06 I ran for my pro day (wearing full pads and moon boots). According to Shields he picked the Pack over 7 other teams because he felt he had a shot to make the team and because he liked the history. I find that when young players reference the history of the Packers, sure in some cases they may be coached to say it, but in most cases it’s usually a good sign of respect for authority and tradition.
Raw seems to be a good word to describe Shields. Tramon Williams was raw when he came into the league too. Both are super fast (will never forget Williams’ rundown of Aevion Cason against Detroit a few years back on Thanksgiving – stands to this day as perhaps the second fastest I’ve ever seen someone run…Usain Bolt). Anyway, there is one key difference between Tramon and Sam. I believe Tramon Williams has already gone through the normal progression of a kick/punt returner. They are often eager to return at first because it means playing time and an opportunity to showcase speed/skills. And because kick returners tend to be a bit more aggressive/reckless early on trying to prove themselves, they are often more productive. But then, after a few big hits, a few costly fumbles, the signing of a nice contract or after getting more playing time on defense or offense, things change – they become more cautious, more hesitant. It happened to Williams, happened to Will Blackmon somewhat, even happened to Desmond Howard after his dominant Super Bowl and other great returners like Dante Hall.
Right now, Sam Shields knows he’ll be fortunate to make an NFL roster. But his qualities of outrageous speed and aggressiveness on special teams could seriously work in his favor. My hope is that the Packers give Shields some kick return duties. He has the potential at least to be scary good. And from a risk reduction standpoint, I would much rather have a rookie who would be way at the bottom of the DB depth chart returning kicks than having our superstar most valuable player (Charles Woodson) do it.