It wasn’t a certainty this day ever would come for Mason Crosby.
Less than three years ago, the Green Bay Packers kicker was fighting to fend off a training-camp challenge from Giorgio Tavecchio. Even after he won the job, Crosby agreed to take a pay cut on the heels of a disastrous 2012 season in which he converted less than two-thirds of his field goals.
Patience paid off for both team and player. Crosby since has converted 87.4 percent of his field goals over his last three seasons, and Wednesday morning, the Packers rewarded him for his resiliency with a four-year, $16.1 million contract that includes a $5 million signing bonus.
Reflecting on his nine seasons with the Packers, Crosby flashed back to that tumultuous 2012 season and the lesson it taught him. The adversity forced Crosby to rebuild and recommit himself to his craft. The past already was written. His sole focus was on the future.
Throughout the negotiating process, Crosby never forgot about how the organization stood by him during the most trying stretch of his NFL career. While other NFL teams were tagging players Tuesday, the Packers were putting the finishing touches on a deal that keeps Crosby in Green Bay through 2019.
“That year, it was a negative while it was happening, it was not a good time, but (it was) such a positive in the long run because of all of those things,” Crosby said. “The relationships that I was able to form through that and just kind of through the adversity, I think we came together a little bit more as far as that bond that I have with the Packers. It’s a special place, and I do think that there’s no other place that I wanted to be.”
Crosby was in Texas when his agent, Mike McCartney, was working out the final details of his client’s return to the Packers. A few hours later, Crosby was notified the contract was in place and a 6:30 a.m. trip to Green Bay was in his forecast.
Crosby will turn 32 in September, the same age Ryan Longwell was in 2006 when he traded in the outdoor conditions of Lambeau Field for the Minnesota Vikings’ Metrodome. As many can attest, being a placekicker in Green Bay isn’t glamorous. Kicking conditions can be treacherous once the winter months begin.
That might be a reason why it has been more than 40 years since a Packers’ kicker has been selected to the Pro Bowl (Chester Marcol in 1974). Still, Crosby doesn’t mind dealing with the elements. An avid golfer, Crosby considers kicking in Green Bay just another hazard to play through.
“I really enjoy the challenge and embrace it,” said Crosby, who was born in Texas and kicked at the University of Colorado. “There’s obviously something special here and I’m happy every day to be a part of it. And then walking in this building, you’re not going to find a better place and a better organization that takes care of the players and the people that are here every day, so yeah, it was pretty much a no-brainer to try to get something done and I’m glad it worked out.”
Crosby said the goal all along was to get something done before the start of free agency next Wednesday. It was at the NFL scouting combine that contracts talks really started to heat up. Once the dust settled, Crosby ended up with the third-highest average salary ($4.025 million) among NFL kickers.
The Packers have Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and long snapper Rick Lovato under contract for 2016, though offseason competition for Masthay and Lovato isn’t out of the question. Green Bay also remains interested in Lovato’s predecessor, Brett Goode, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December.
Outside of his 2012 campaign, Crosby has been a beacon of consistency for the Packers and the only kicker the organization has known since Aaron Rodgers took over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2008.
Crosby will enter next season as the franchise leader in points (1,145), field goals (236) and 50-yard field goals (27). He’s second in NFL history for the most points in his first nine seasons (2007-15) behind New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (1,179, 2006-14).
There’s also Crosby’s active league record of 20 consecutive made field goals in the playoffs. Additionally, he was one of only four kickers who converted all of their extra points (including playoffs) from the newly instituted distance of the 15-yard line.
Of all his accomplishments, Crosby said the one he takes the most pride in is how he has responded to the highs and lows of being an NFL kicker. The 2012 season could have dispatched him out of Green Bay and possibly the entire NFL. Instead, he’s one of the league’s longest-tenured kickers -- and also one of the wealthiest.
“I think how I’ve dealt with adversity — the good and the bad,” Crosby said. “There’s been some really awesome moments, but those tough moments are what helped me to really kind of polish what kind of kicker I’m going to be. These last few years are what I expect out of myself and what I expect to be and I hope to continue that forward.”
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