Green Bay Packers Sam Shields – The Florida Flash

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Call him the Florida Flash.  By now, most Packers fans know that Sam Shields can outright fly. Shields himself knows that putting that speed to use on the playing field will be his ticket to outpace other candidates for a spot on the 53-man roster. Let’s just say that after his 98 yard interception at the family night scrimmage, Shields has made a good first impression.

I generally like to do my undrafted free agent evaluations before training camp starts, so I can make more of a “blind”  evaluation uninfluenced by camp performances (I like the challenge). While in the previous weeks I covered the wide receivers, running backs and offensive linemen free agents, there just hasn’t been time to get to the defensive UDFAs.

But there are a couple of defensive UDFAs in camp that are worthy of a “better late than never” evaluation, and we’ll start with Sam Shields.

Shields was born in Sarasota Florida and played football there for Booker High School. After a senior year where Shields caught 67 passes for 1,201 yards (17.9 avg.) and 22 TDs, as well as two TDs on punt returns and a 44 yd average on kickoff returns, Shields was a top-20 nationally ranked WR recruit. Shields chose the University of Miami over Florida, LSU and other suitors.

Shields contributed immediately as a true freshman at Miami. He started 7 of 13 games at WR, caught 37 passes with 4 TDs and was named Honorable Mention Freshman All-American. His production as a wide receiver dropped the next two seasons as he caught 27 passes as a sophomore and only 11 passes as a junior. He excelled as a gunner on special teams, however, and was named Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior.

With Shields having lost playing time as a wide receiver because of too many drops, Miami head coach Randy Shannon looked for another way to get Shields and his speed on the field more often. So they moved Shields to CB, where he started 10 of 12 games as a senior and was named the team’s most improved player.

Fast Forward to March 18th, about a month before the NFL Draft. After arriving at his grandmother’s house to pick up his daughter, Shields was caught in a police raid on the house and charged with possession of marijuana. Sarasota police raided the residence shortly after he arrived because they suspected drugs were being sold there. Shields said he was not using marijuana and was falsely arrested.

A month later, all charges against Shields were dropped, but the damage was done. Add in the fact that he really didn’t have a set position, and Shields was ignored in the NFL Draft, despite having put up some gaudy numbers at his Pro day: 4.30 40-yard-dash, 4.19 short shuttle and 6.79 three-cone drill, 39.0 vertical jump, 11-1 broad jump and 15 reps on the bench.

When the NFL draft ended, Shields received calls from 7 teams. He decided on the Packers, one of two teams he had visited. “I liked Green Bay, the Hall of Fame, everything,” Shields said, “I talked to my head coach, Randy Shannon, and I also did my homework on the depth chart and how I could fit in as far as special teams. I thought it was the best fit for me.”

Other factors for Shields were the Packers not selecting a cornerback in the draft, and Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr.’s  history of converting offensive players to defense. As a college coach at Louisville, Whitt successfuly converted several players to defense, some examples being William Gay, Antoine Harris and Kerry Rhodes. Said Whitt of Shields, “Once we get him going, he’s going to be a danged-good player.”

Through OTAs and the first week of camp, Shields has opened the eyes of some very discerning people, especially with his surprising play at cornerback.

Coach Mike McCarthy said, Shields “really jumped out to me” during the offseason practices and was off to a good start in training camp.

Tramon Williams said, “Obviously, he’s an explosive guy. He’s real fast. I think with some good coaching, he’s going to be a player.”

And most impressive of all, Charles Woodson chimed in, “You know what, I think he’s going to be able to play for us.”

Training camp kudos aside, Shields has a battle to make the 53-man roster. But with the Packers woes at special teams, having a guy like Shields to force fair catches (his specialty, according to Shields), would certainly help get them out of the bottom of the rankings.

Shields has also been working hard at practicing catching the ball for punts and kickoffs. He’s still not at the point where you would trust him on a punt, but kickoffs are a definite possibility, including the possibility of getting him the ball through a bit of trickery, as this clip will demonstrate:

And why stop there? How about getting the ball into his hands on offense for a few plays  a game? He can line up as a wide receiver and be used to stretch the field. Or used as a decoy to force a safety to commit sooner they they might like, creating open spaces underneath.

Or perhaps he could be used to bring the end-around or reverse back to the Packers playbook (you all remember what those plays look like don’t you?).

My point is, the Packers can find multiple ways to use this guy’s speed and scare the hell out of opposing teams on special teams, defense or offense. He’s your gunner, possible kick returner, the last cornerback on the roster and an emergency wideout as well.

Certainly, for anyone who has witnessed Jarret Bush losing his man and flailing around hopelessly while trying to pick up the ball in the air, can Shields really be any worse?

Used properly, Shields can be a valuable contributor to this team. It’s still early, and I want to see him in real contact action in the preseason games, but right now, it’s hard not to be excited about the prospects of the Florida Flash…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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  • http://greenbaypackernation.com john rehor

    Shields is a huge talent. HUGE talent. He needs to harness his ability on an every down basis and avoid the issues which plagued him before the draft. If he can do this, he will indeed be the steal of the draft period and a tremendous asset to the Packers.

    Nice read Al.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      If the Packers get a bit creative, his speed could be used in a lot of ways, which would give other teams something else to worry about.

  • http://www.packerranter.com Robert Greenfield

    My favorite part of the story is that he chose the Packers… it was meant to be!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Well, he probably looked at the Packers depth chart and saw Jarret Bush in his way and said. “I can handle that” LOL

  • http://purplepantsgreenjersey.wordpress.com Max

    I would love to see Shields make the team. We haven’t had a versatile special teams player in quite some time. If the Packers choose to take advantage of Shields’ unique talents, he could be a great addition to special teams, defense, and offense.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      I’ll hold off until I see him in the preseason games, but so far, it looks promising…

  • http://www.packerranter.com Robert Greenfield

    He’s the next Terrell Buckley for sure.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      How dare you!

    • http://greenbaypackernation.com john rehor

      T-Buck? For shame!

  • Ruppert

    Jarrett Bush is the guy I thought of when Shields ran that INT back the other night. My thought was, exactly, “Even if it IS just a scrimmage, Shields has now made exactly one more dynamic play in his career than Bush has made in his own.” Keep it up, Sam.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Sadly, that’s a very true statement…

  • Yoop

    Shields is showing a lot more then I think everyone thought he would.
    His speed advantage can be used to bait a QB into thinking that player is open.
    I’d really like to know what his ten yard time was.
    Watching him at Gunner was amazing. He can run past anyone.
    The big thing is he is really working at it.
    He could be an amazing player, another situation where a good coach is going to make the difference with a player that will really help the team.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Put me in the surprised category. I really didn’t give him much of a chance as a corner, but all reports have been encouraging. He’s still a long way away, but there could be enought there to keep him.

  • Darb

    Even if Shields takes ONE reverse back on a KOR vs. the Vikings…like he did vs. the Badgers…he is worth it. If the same opportunity were given to Jarret Bush he would drop the ball, kick it to the opposition by accident, and then miss a tackle allowing them to score. Can’t teach speed!! Get creative MM!! Remember Corey Harris?? He was a player without a position when Holmgren got him. But he was an athlete. In his first year with the Packers he was given a rushing attempt vs. the Oilers and was also a stud on KOR and Kick/Punt Coverage. He later found his nitch as a safety and played for the Ravens on a VERY strong defense. Athletes are athletes, and you can never find enough of them.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Good points, darb. I’m envisioning such an all-purpose role as a possibility for shields. That could be an X factor other teams aren’t ready for.

  • Taryn

    Talented yes,athletic yes,a spot on SPT’s yes,but playing against your teamates is one thing and playing against an opponent who is going to blast you as you catch a K/O or P/R is another.he makes the first cut for sure,but pre-week 3 will really decide when it’s first against first teams and many will kill for the spots.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Yes. Which is why I said, “It’s still early, and I want to see him in real contact action in the preseason games…”

  • titletown96

    Hey Jersey Al,

    What a great post. The reports that we have been hearing about Sam Shields have been there since the start of OTA’s. There is no way this guy will last on the practice squad. No way. The reining Defensive Player of The Year, (C.B. Charles Woodson) has already called him a PLAYER. Based on the way he has been picking off passes all during camp/OTA’s this season (on Family Night included) there is no way he survives on the practice squad, no way. Somebody will come along and snatch him from the PS. We all saw his speed, athleticism and his elusiveness on display that night. Truly, this young man has a future with the Packers. A bright future at that. He has Al Harris, C.Woodson(to an extent N.Collins) to mentor him. Not to mention Carnell Lake is one the assistants back there giving pointers as well. After all is said and done this kid has alot of people ready to show him the ropes. Not to mention he has Joe Whitt Jr. (whom you pointed out for us) a position coach that already has a proven track record at converting offensive players into proven NFL caliber starters.

    For cryin’ out loud Al, why isn’t there a post or thread out there giving praise the our assistants. That right there, is something that deserves recognition as well…

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Thanks! As for assistant coaches, they don’t get a lot of publicity, unless they were a former NFL star, like Kevin Greene. Without access to the locker room, it’s tough to find out much about them…