It's hard to believe that it was 17 seasons ago that free agent Desmond Howard shocked the football world by making the Packers' final roster out of camp and subsequently sparked the team to a Super Bowl title thanks to a record setting season returning punts that concluded with a Super Bowl MVP trophy.
After a 1-2 start in which the return game not only failed to provide any kind of spark it arguably cost them the game in Cincinnati after since jettisoned returner Jeremy Ross muffed a first quarter kickoff that ultimately resulted in a Bengals touchdown.
Thanks to a surprisingly much needed bye week this early in the season, the Packers have two weeks to address this issue. They could decide to address the problem in-house by returning wide receiver Randall Cobb to the role, though with an injury list that's already becoming overcrowded, subjecting their leading receiver to such an injury risk is an unappealing option for head coach Mike McCarthy.
Another in-house option is sending rookie cornerback Micah Hyde back on punts, a role he filled reliably though not so explosively at Iowa and putting rookie running back Johnathan Franklin back on kickoffs where his inexperience in the return game wouldn't present as much of a risk as on punt returns and his vision and ability to read blocks could make him a natural as a returner.
The other option for Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his personnel department is to look outside the organization for help. Though this isn't typically Thompson's M.O. there is a glaring need in this department and since the team likely needs to fill their open roster spot with a wide receiver anyway seeing that the release of Ross leaves the pass-first Packers with only four wide receivers, Thompson may as well bring in a receiver who can provide a boost, or at the very least a sense of reliability in the return game.
Here's a look at some of the more intriguing and likely candidates to fill this void for the Green and Gold when they return to the field two weeks from now against the visiting Lions.