GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers are releasing receiver Darrius Shepherd, according to a source, to make way for veteran receiver Tavon Austin.
While Shepherd had five receptions for 46 yards, his primary role had been returning kicks during the absences of Tyler Ervin. Shepherd didn’t done well – one return for 6 yards with eight fair catches on punts and a 20.6-yard average on 11 kickoff returns – but the Packers’ special teams have been horrible, in general. Ervin, who lit a fire on the return units as a late-season addition last year, has averaged only 5.0 yards per punt return and 17.6 yards per kickoff return.
With Ervin out with injured ribs, Shepherd had a costly fumble against Indianapolis two weeks ago, a critical play in an overtime loss to the Colts. Last week against Chicago, Malik Taylor replaced Shepherd on kickoffs and Shepherd had fair catches on both punt returns.
As an undrafted rookie last year, Shepherd made the team but was released a couple weeks after fumbling a punt return against Detroit. This year, he failed to make the roster but was promoted to the 53 before the Week 4 game against Atlanta.
“There was a lot of highs and lows with the season and a lot of growth that had to be done to get to this point,” he said at the time. “I always believed in myself but having to go through last year really kicked in, ‘Hey, this is what I want to do,’ and worked to get better. I’m excited to be in this position right now, back with the team.”
On Monday, a source confirmed Austin is joining the Packers. Later, Austin did, as well.
A first-round pick by the Rams in 2013, Austin has caught 215 passes for 2,006 yards (9.3 average) and 15 touchdowns, carried 196 times or 1,340 yards (6.8 average) and 10 touchdowns, and averaged 7.9 yards with three touchdowns on punt returns. He had one punt-return touchdown apiece in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Last year with Dallas, he averaged only 4.9 yards per punt return.
Other than a return here and there, he hasn’t served as the primary kickoff returner since his rookie season.
In 2017, when LaFleur was offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams, Austin caught 13 passes for 47 yards but had a career-high 59 carries for 270 yards.