Mason Crosby’s struggles last season and renegotiated contract last month leave open the question of what the Packers will do if he misses a couple of field goal attempts early in the season.
Will Crosby be on an especially short leash and lose his job if he fails to convert a medium-range kick or two in the first few weeks despite his great run of kicking at the end of training camp?
“I don’t think like that, first of all,” said Shawn Slocum, the Packers’ special teams coach. “I look at the work he’s done, and we talk about trusting our training and our process around here. He’s kicking the ball really well.”
Crosby has been on a hot streak since putting his job in jeopardy with three straight missed field goals in a practice Aug. 21, followed by the team signing Zach Ramirez as a third kicker for the final week of camp. By the Packers’ count, in the final week of camp Crosby made 26 field goals in 27 attempts in live practice periods and the final preseason game, a 96.3 conversion rate.
“He responded well to an adverse situation early in camp,” Slocum said. “Became very consistent and did a really good job with the competition. He is technically and mentally right where he needs to be to start the season.”
Though it takes nothing away from Crosby’s recent run, his final kick of training camp has been a point of dispute among reporters who closely followed the kicking periods in camp. In that final one-on-one period between Crosby and Ramirez, the last field goal attempt came from 58 yards into a strong wind.
Crosby’s kick hit the ball-catching net that’s tied between the goal posts, and the ball appeared to go over the crossbar. Though a practice official standing in the middle behind the goal posts seemed to question whether it went over, Packers employees at each goal post signaled the kick good.
The Press-Gazette’s Wes Hodkiewicz insisted the kick was short but was dismissed by several reporters, including me. However, Justin Felder of WLUK, the Green Bay Fox TV affiliate, posted video on the station’s website that evening that showed the kick was just short, though it was difficult to tell because the net was blowing several yards in front of the crossbar. The Packers almost always kick with the wind, so the net usually blows away from the field, not into it. Crosby’s kick hit high enough up the net to give the illusion it was good.
The question was whether the net changed the ball’s trajectory and was the reason the ball came up just short. Slocum, though, said the kick looked good on the Packers’ video from practice, so in the team’s statistics it was good.
“With that wind, in a normal situation in a game, you probably wouldn’t attempt the field goal there,” Slocum said. “Now at the end of the game in a must-make situation you probably would. I just thought he hit a really good ball. He hit it as good as he could hit it, showed his leg strength, and really showed a lot about where he’s at right now.”