While Davis recovered from a stinger in camp, Shepherd handled most of the Packers’ kickoff and punt returns in the preseason. He averaged 9.2 yards per return on five punts and 22.0 yards on five kickoffs, including a long of 36 against Baltimore.
Shepherd, listed at 5-foot-11, 186 pounds, also has a physical and mental knack for returns. It’s a position he’s played dating back to high school and one he’ll embrace should the Packers call his number Sunday against the Broncos.
“I think it’s a big opportunity,” said Shepherd, who returned to practice last week after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury. “We have a lot to pick up with him being gone because Trevor is a great punt returner, kick returner on this team so we have to really step up our game and do what we can to make up those lost yards.”
Smith, claimed off waivers from Kansas City this week, is a bit more of a proven commodity as a returner. The former sixth-round pick was named to the PFWA All-Rookie team last year after averaging 26.8 yards per return on 33 kickoffs, good for fourth in the NFL among qualifying players.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback, who ran a 4.38 time in the 40 at his Central Arkansas pro day, had his biggest highlight in Week 6 of last season when he ran back a 97-yard kickoff against New England.
“Trusting your teammates and hitting it full speed and trusting that they’re going to have their blocks,” Smith said. “It’s hitting it full speed and running as fast as possible, and you can’t be scared, either. You can’t run scared; that’s when you get hit hard.”