Punt returner Hyde a 'natural' like Woodson

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Micah Hyde dismissed the comparison from the start.

Other than being from nearby towns in rural northwest Ohio, Hyde humbly rejected the notion that he should be compared in any way to Charles Woodson.

But Packers coach Mike McCarthy did not. When asked about Hyde’s ability as a punt returner, McCarthy brought up Woodson, the former Packers All-Pro cornerback who also handled return duties at different times during his career in Green Bay.

“Micah Hyde, from day one, I’ve said before in here, back to the rookie minicamp, I think he’s about as natural of a returner as far as handling the football that I’ve seen coming out of college,” McCarthy said. “Charles Woodson is probably one of the best players that I’ve been around as far as handling the football [on] punts. Just very natural to him, and Micah is similar in that way. So he just needs more opportunities.”

Those opportunities are sure to come now that receiver Randall Cobb, who handled return duties for most of the previous two seasons and part of this season, is out at least eight weeks because of a fractured fibula he sustained in last Sunday’s 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Hyde is expected to be the full-time punt returner on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

“I don’t see myself as that; I’m not even compared to anything like that,” Hyde said when asked about comparisons to Woodson. “I’m just back there trying to catch the ball and make sure that A-Rod can go out there and throw touchdowns after that. That’s it.”

Against the Ravens, Hyde averaged 13.6 yards on five punt returns. For the season, he’s averaging 10.7 yards per punt return in seven total attempts to rank fourth in the NFC and ninth overall in the NFL. He’s the only rookie among the league’s top 20 punt returners.

Hyde appeared to be hesitant on his first return against the Ravens and picked up only 2 yards. But his next four returns went for 7, 23, 20 and 16 yards.

“He became more decisive,” special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “I mentioned to him when I saw what he did on the first one, I thought he needed to hit it a little quicker, and he did that on the last three and had really good production.”

It was perhaps the best game of Hyde’s young career. The fifth-round pick from Iowa also played 39 snaps on defense as the third cornerback in the nickel package and had six tackles and a sack/forced fumble of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the third quarter.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes Hyde’s ability to blitz, which is another thing Woodson did extremely well.

“I just have my own expectations, and I’m not saying if I’m fulfilling them right now or not,” Hyde said. “But I like to hold myself to a high standard.”