GREEN BAY – Ryan Longwell was inside a bar at Disney World when his successor made the two biggest kicks of his career.
The former Green Bay Packers kicker had just finished second at the Diamond Resorts Invitational, a celebrity golf tournament in Orlando. At one point, Longwell made seven birdies in 10 holes. To celebrate, he took his family to nearby Disney World.
Inside the Fort Wilderness Resort bar, he watched Packers kicker Mason Crosby make two long field goals against the Dallas Cowboys, including a 53-yard game-winner.
“Just amazing,” Longwell said. “The thing about those positions is, no one understands what it’s like unless you’ve been there. You can play a video game, you can be in other sports, but when that whole game is on your foot and you just know you have to perform, and you’re confident in your abilities but your legs still feel like Jell-O, and there’s nothing that can simulate that situation until you’re there.
“He just pounded three through (one didn’t count because of a timeout) that obviously from long range, just the pressure and the situation, it’s just incredible and a true (testament) not what he is physically, but who he is mentally. He’s just the strongest guy and understands and has perspective on the job, which you can kind of free-flow in those situations.”
Longwell knew too well what that moment in Dallas felt like. It wasn’t long ago he was known for his clutch kicks. His four game-winning field goals in 2004 were an NFL record.
When Longwell signed with the Minnesota Vikings before the 2006 season, he left Green Bay as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He led the Packers in scoring a record nine straight seasons. His 226 field goals, 81.6 percentage, 376 extra points and eight 100-point seasons were team records.
Crosby now owns each of those records except career percentage. His 80.4 percentage trails Longwell’s mark, thanks to a 2012 slump. Crosby became the Packers' all-time scoring leader during a 2015 home victory against the Seattle Seahawks.
Longwell, who still talks often with Crosby, said he has “a great relationship” with the Packers' current kicker. He’s impressed with how Crosby responded after his 63.6 percentage in 2012 was last in the NFL. Longwell said he didn’t mind watching Crosby pass him in the team’s record books.
“He puts them out of reach forever,” Longwell said. “He’s so good at what he does, and once he went through that tough stretch where he basically – which is so rare in the NFL – he basically bet on himself and that is so much confidence and so much faith to put all the chips on yourself. That’s kind of how we want it as athletes, but since then he’s been so good, so steady, and really made three of the biggest kicks I’ve ever seen in that playoff game this year.
“So I just have the utmost respect for the guy, and like I said I hope he puts them so far out of reach that he stands at the top of the charts. But knowing how this business works, there’s probably some kid that’ll come along that can kick 70-yarders and break all of his records. It’s just the nature of the beast. But Mason is far more deserving than anybody else to be on top of that.”
The Packers feel like they know what they’re getting with Ricky Jean Francois, a 30-year-old free-agent defensive tackle they signed last month to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million.
Jean Francois, a seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2009, has spent most of his eight seasons in the NFC. He played the last two seasons in Washington, appearing in all 32 games.
Jean Francois has played the Packers five times in his career, including each of the past two seasons.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he was impressed when Jean Francois played against his team, and even more so when the Packers hosted him on his visit.
“It was a good fit,” McCarthy said. “He’s a no-nonsense guy. A veteran with experience, and he’s actually done some good things playing out in the five technique, not just the one or the three, too. I thought he was an excellent addition.”
The Packers might not be done with the defensive line. If the board falls right later this month, they could add another piece through the draft. They took a look at former Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, claiming him on waivers Tuesday, but Ferguson was released Wednesday after failing his physical.
The Packers announced a change in one of the dates for their organized team activities, which the NFL unveiled Monday. The correct dates for the OTAs are May 22-24, May 31, June 1-2 and June 6-9, with mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15. All dates are subject to change.