New punter Jacob Schum gets off on right foot
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jake Schum arrived in Green Bay at 2 a.m. Wednesday and before he had time to even unpack his things he was punting in the Green Bay Packers’ walk-through practice and preparing to fly to Kansas City.
In a matter of hours, Schum went from loser of a punting battle with Bryan Anger in Tampa Bay to Packers’ starting punter.
The understanding wasn’t that he was taking part in a tryout Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, but rather that he was stepping into a role as veteran Tim Masthay’s replacement for the 2016 season.
“They just brought me in and expected me to do what they had seen from me,” Schum said after the Packers’ 17-7 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. “I felt really comfortable doing what I know how to do.
“I just wanted to perform and do really well tonight.”
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If he had bombed in his debut, maybe the Packers would have sought another punter, but after releasing Masthay at the same time they claimed Schum on waivers, they sent out the signal that this was their guy. Schum was Tampa Bay’s punter last season – his first as a full-time punter after bouncing around the league for two years — and the Packers felt he was ready to be theirs this year.
Schum proceeded to not let them down.
After hitting around eight punts in practice Wednesday, he pounded another eight against the Chiefs, averaging 45.5 yards gross and 41.3 net. He regularly hit 4.0 hang time and topped out at 5.04 on one that went 44 yards and forced a fair catch at the Kansas City 9.
It was his best punt of the night, but would have been No. 2 if a 57-yarder he landed inside the 5-yard line hadn’t barely crossed the goal-line after taking several bounces that gave the coverage team a chance to down it at the 1-yard line.
“I had like two bounces going left and then it just rolled forward,” Schum said. “I really thought it was going to stick, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always bounce your way all the time.”
Schum said he didn’t have much time to work with special teams coach Ron Zook on the specific schemes the Packers use, but he said it was more about punting to a spot and he felt he was able to do that.
He landed three punts inside the 10-yard line, including two of his first three, helping pin Kansas City in its own end. Coach Mike McCarthy seemed to be setting Schum up to punt on the team’s second series when he ran the ball on third and 5, a clear passing down.
Schum said he just fired away the same as he had done in Tampa Bay and felt confident his talent would carry him.
“I thought it was a pretty good start,” Schum said. “The coverage team was awesome. (Long snapper) Rick (Lovato) gave me some great snaps and we got down there and made some nice plays.
“What you’re expected to do as a punter is change field position and get good direction hang-time distance. That’s what I expect every day.”
The punt coverage unit had worked with Masthay and rookie Peter Mortell all camp long and had to make some slight adjustments with Schum. But in an exhibition game, Zook isn’t trying to do anything fancy and the main objective is for the punter to synch with his coverage and hold the other team in its own territory.
“To be honest, the punts he showed looked really great,” said fullback Aaron Ripkowski, a core special teams player. “But it’s one game. We have to shoot some more consistent and see him do it some more before we really develop an opinion on him.
“But it’s not up to me. I’m just there blocking for him.”
Besides punting, Schum had to come in and gain the trust and confidence of kicker Mason Crosby and Lovato. Schum practiced as Crosby’s holder on Wednesday and learned the way the kicker likes the ball held, something Masthay perfected over a six-year period.
The two worked together in pregame warm-ups and were prepared for significant game action, but the only kick required to be taken was an extra point. Crosby not only had to accept that the holds wouldn’t be perfect right from the start he had to accept they weren’t coming from his best friend.
“Tim’s a long-time friend,” Crosby said. “He’s a great player and great friend and that’s tough. But I started working with Jake and we’ll continue to work on things and get better.
“I thought he hit the ball well tonight. He did what he needed to do.”
McCarthy sounded pleased.
"I thought he did a lot of good things," McCarthy said. "Jacob, for being with us for two days, he punted well in practice yesterday and I thought he continued that again tonight. Most importantly, I think the ball placement outside the numbers was what we were looking for and I think he accomplished that."
Schum said he knows anything could happen in the day and a half until the cut-down to 53, but he said that wasn’t what was on his mind while he took the field. He said he focused on performing the same way he had during training camp with the Buccaneers.
He’s not sure why Tampa Bay decided to cut him, but he said he thinks he landed in a perfect spot and expects to give the Packers what they’re looking for.
“I have high expectations for myself,” he said. “I expect myself to do well. I felt like I did my job (in Tampa). I did what I was supposed to do. I felt I had a solid preseason. That’s the nature of the business.
“But you never know who’s watching. I feel like everything happened the way it was supposed to.”