Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby during training camp practice inside the Don Hutson Center on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Mason Crosby’s sprained ankle could put the Packers in the market to sign a kicker for Saturday night’s preseason opener at Cleveland.
Crosby sustained a sprained ankle on a kickoff in practice last Friday, was unable to participate in Saturday night’s abbreviated scrimmage, and did not practice Monday or Tuesday. He’s the only kicker on the Packers’ roster.
“We’ll kind of see how it goes over the next couple of days,” General Manager Ted Thompson said.
The Packers have not said whether Crosby injured the ankle on his kicking or plant leg. He’s attended practice this week and has not exhibited a limp.
The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement prevented Crosby and all other veterans who signed new contracts after the lockout from practicing until Thursday, Aug. 4. Crosby then injured his ankle on his second night of practice in camp.
The Packers conceivably could go a preseason game without a kicker and have punter Tim Masthay handle kickoffs and any field goals and extra points they’d want to attempt, though they might be concerned about exposing Masthay to injury in those duties. Masthay doubled as a kickoff specialist in college at Kentucky.
“We could consider a number of things,” special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said. “We’ll have to go through the next two days and make a decision on which direction we’re going to go.”
Among the kickers available off the street are: Kris Brown, who has made 77.3 percent of his field goals in 11 NFL seasons; 38-year-old Joe Nedney, who’s made 80.3 percent of his field goal attempts in his 16-year career; Todd Carter, who didn’t attempt a field goal in his lone NFL game, last year with Carolina, and was cut by St. Louis on Tuesday; and Jake Rogers, an undrafted rookie from Cincinnati this year who was cut by New Orleans on Aug. 3.
Neal doing more than he expected: Defensive end Mike Neal didn’t think he’d be taking many snaps in team drills the first couple of weeks of training camp, but he’s been working regularly with the starters in base and nickel personnel since getting clearance for full practice late last week.
Neal is coming back from the season-ending torn labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder that ended his rookie season last Oct. 10 at Washington. He wore a shoulder harness for extra support the first week of camp but on Monday discarded it.
“I’m fine,” Neal said. “I didn’t expect them to throw me out there in full contact right now, but I’m doing it and I don’t have any pain. So I feel fine.”
Neal had a torn labrum in his other shoulder in college, so there’s concern he could have a chronic problem. But he’s been an avid weight lifter dating back to college and said doctors told him after his most injury that his bulky shoulders might leave him susceptible to such injuries because the smaller, stabilizing muscles in his shoulders might have atrophied. He said he’s hoping to avoid any more problems by incorporating into his daily workouts the precise, light-weight exercises that strengthen those smaller muscles around the labrum and rotator cuff.
“You don’t use the smaller muscles in there and they get weak over time, and when you’re in an awkward position they can’t hold up,” he said. “That’s probably what it was.”
Extra points: Tight end Jermichael Finley, on whether he thinks the Packers will offer him a long-term contract this season: “Right now I’m a Packer, and I would love to be here my whole career. It’s a business at the same time, and you know, if the Packers come to me and say, ‘We want to extend you,’ that’s great. If they don’t, I’m going to go out and play ball and do what I can.”
Linebacker Diyral Briggs has been a casualty of the NFL lockout, which prohibited team-run offseason workout programs. Briggs said he spent most of the offseason working on his straight-line speed for special-teams play and sustained his pulled hamstring while doing lateral-movement drills in pre-training camp physical testing. He would have done more lateral-movement drills if he’d been working under the Packers’ supervision for the bulk of the offseason.
Briggs, whose was a special-teams core player last year, still hasn’t passed his physical and thus hasn’t practiced.
“I feel like I can go, but (the Packers’ medical staffers) know more than me,” Briggs said. “I trust their judgment. When they feel I’m ready to go, I’ll go.”
Coach Mike McCarthy gave the night of practice off Tuesday to players with seven years or more: Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Scott Wells, Chad Clifton, Ryan Pickett, Donald Driver and Howard Green.
Injury report: Did not practice: LB Diyral Briggs (hamstring), DE Eli Joseph (hamstring/hip flexor), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee), K Mason Crosby (ankle), CB Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), LB Cardia Jackson (unidentified), WR Brett Swain (hamstring).
New injuries: CB Brandian Ross left practice early (hamstring).
Returned from injury: Marshall Newhouse.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty