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Crosby makes statement, stakes claim to kicking job

Aug. 27, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby during training camp practice Tuesday at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers kicker Zach Ramirez attempts field goals during training camp practice Tuesday at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

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Veteran Mason Crosby is the last man standing in the Green Bay Packers’ training camp kicking competition and appears to have nailed down the job.

The Packers cut Zach Ramirez on Tuesday after the rookie turned in a dreadful 6-for-16 performance at practice earlier in the day, leaving Crosby as the only kicker on the roster.

Crosby was flawless in drilling 14 of 14 field-goal attempts, including a 64-yarder, during a head-to-head duel with Ramirez at Nitschke Field.

“I thought Mason was exceptional,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

But McCarthy stopped just short of declaring Crosby his kicker for the 2013 season.

“I’m not going to say that at this moment,” said McCarthy after practice but before the announcement of Ramirez’s release.

“I said it the other day, I thought it was clear there’s a competition and no one’s really jumped through the door. Hopefully that’s happened.”

Crosby made the strongest possible case for himself on Tuesday, but McCarthy might want to wait and see how he does in the Packers’ preseason finale at Kansas City on Thursday night.

The Packers cut street free agent Giorgio Tavecchio earlier this week after a five-month tryout, but McCarthy said Monday he wouldn’t rule out bringing him back. The Packers also could pick up another kicker on waivers over the weekend.

But for now, the much maligned Crosby appears entrenched in the job he has held since the 2007 season after his sterling performance during the Packers’ final training camp practice.

Crosby didn’t miss during two kicking sessions on a hot, windy day. He went 7-for-7 in the first period kicking toward the south end zone into a swirling wind on attempts from 33, 37, 40, 42, 45, 48 and 58 yards. Ramirez made 4 of 7 kicks with misses from 42, 48 and 58 yards.

A few minutes later, the pair switched sides and kicked into the north end zone with the wind mostly at their backs. Crosby again nailed 7 of 7 field-goal attempts from 35, 40, 44, 47, 51, 54 and 64 yards.

Ramirez wilted in the second session and made just 2 of 9 kicks. He shanked his first attempt from 35 yards, then missed wide right from 44, 47, 54, 64, 58 and 58 yards.

“You could see Ramirez was struggling a little bit with the timing of it,” McCarthy said.

“He’s only been here three days. He really didn’t have the rhythm and the cadence and the snap down. I think it affected him on the first set of kicks and it carried over to the second set.”

Ramirez was signed after a tryout Sunday morning and made 10 of 11 field-goal attempts on the practice field later in the day to match Crosby’s effort.

Since the Packers signed Ramirez, Crosby has responded by converting 24 of 25 attempts in practice.

It’s a far cry from early August, when Crosby suffered through a 3-for-8 performance during the Family Night scrimmage, was booed by the Lambeau Field crowd and appeared to be losing a grip on his job.

“Ever since Family Night, he really has been on,” said Tim Masthay, who serves as Crosby’s holder.

“Not only has he been making the vast majority of his field goals, he’s been hitting a really straight, high, strong kick.”

Since Family Night, Crosby has converted 59 of 66 field-goal attempts (89.4 percent) in practice and preseason games. Overall, Crosby made 71 of 85 field goals (83.5 percent) during training camp.

Prior to his release, Tavecchio converted 57 of 66 field goal attempts (86.4 percent), while Ramirez made 16 of 27 (59.2 percent).

Crosby endured more difficulty last week when he missed consecutive field goals from 42, 42 and 44 yards in practice, which likely prompted the Packers to sign Ramirez.

“Even that day he was hitting strong, straight kicks that were going right over the pole,” Masthay said. “He was just inches from making all of them. Ever since Family Night he has been really, really good.”

Crosby suffered his worst NFL season last year when he made just 21 of 33 field-goal attempts (63.6 percent). The signing of Tavecchio in March provided Crosby with his first kicking competition in Green Bay since his rookie season.

“I’m sure he’s dealt with quite a bit of frustration and emotions and uncertainly and all that kind of stuff,” Masthay said, “but when he’s in here and when he’s on the field, to me he certainly always seems composed and focused.”

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

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I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
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