Short-term, long-term return options

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers didn’t sign another kick returner to replace Jeremy Ross, who was released last week.

But now there’s an intriguing prospect on the practice squad.

Though it doesn’t solve the Packers’ return problems for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, the signing of rookie receiver Reggie Dunn to the practice squad on Monday might help the return game in weeks to come.

The 5-foot-9, 178-pound Dunn was a first-team All-Pac 12 kick returner at the University of Utah last season, when he averaged a whopping 51.3 yards per return on 10 kickoffs, four of which he returned for touchdowns (including two in one game against Cal). What’s more, he might be the fastest player in the Packers’ locker room. He said that during his pro day workout, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds and again in 4.26 seconds.

Dunn, who spent the preseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers after signing as an undrafted free agent, worked out for the Packers on Monday morning and was signed to the practice squad shortly thereafter.

“Hopefully as the weeks go by, I can impress some of the coaches and show I can be a help to the team and help the team win games,” Dunn said. “But as of right now, I’m on the practice squad. I just got here. The only thing I can do is work hard every day, try to bond with some of the guys and work hard and play my role on the practice squad.”

At this point, with the Packers ranked dead last in the NFL in kick return average, they might be willing to try anything.

But where does that leave the Packers for Sunday’s game against the Lions? That’s been the question since the Packers cut Ross after he fumbled a kickoff against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.

The Packers will have to decide whether to use receiver Randall Cobb on returns. Cobb, who has three special-teams touchdowns the past two seasons combined, has not been the primary return man since late last season, when Ross took over.

“The return game is something that really will take the week to work through,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “We have some candidates. Whether Randall will do it or won’t do it, we’ll let the week play that out. It’s a focus. It’s been a focus since we made the change.”

For what it’s worth, Cobb was listed as the No. 1 kick returner and punt returner on the team’s latest depth chart released on Tuesday.

However, given Cobb’s importance on offense -- he leads the team in receptions (21) and receiving yards (290) -- and the fact that the Packers have only four receivers on their roster, they might be hesitant to put him back on full-time return duty.

That would leave rookie running back Johnathan Franklin as the most likely candidate to return kickoffs and rookie cornerback Micah Hyde as the possible punt returner.

“Nothing’s changed so far,” Cobb said. “I’m still practicing the same way I’ve been practicing, the way I’ve practiced all through OTAs, all through training camp, as a returner. We don’t know for certain what the deal’s going to be. In this business, anything can change. It’s a lot of time before the game, so we don’t know what it’s going to be when the time comes. As of right now, I’ve got to prepare myself for me being that guy.”