GREEN BAY - If the Green Bay Packers thought they could change their holder and snapper and not have it affect kicker Mason Crosby, they found out Saturday how misguided that thinking might be.
Crosby is coming off one of the best years of his career, but in the offseason, general manager Ted Thompson decided not to bring back free-agent long snapper Brett Goode and to part ways with punter/holder Jacob Schum.
He replaced both with undrafted free agents, meaning two thirds of his field-goal and extra-point operation hasn’t played an NFL snap.
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Throughout camp, it was evident that things weren’t going seamlessly even though Crosby hit 22 of 23 field-goal attempts in practice. Some of the kicks were line drives and others just didn’t turn over the way they normally do for Crosby.
Then came Saturday night.
In the final drill of the night with a good portion of the crowd of 63,156 still in attendance, Crosby missed six of his last seven attempts, including his last four, three of them from 50 yards out. Crosby made just 5 of 11 attempts.
“The operation I would say as a quick analysis wasn't as clean as it probably could be,” coach Mike McCarthy.
Long snapper Derek Hart has struggled with getting the ball to holder Justin Vogel with the laces facing forward so he doesn’t need to spin the ball to get them away from Crosby. Goode had the necessary rotation down pat and rarely gave a bad snap.
Vogel, the only punter in camp for the Packers, held at the University of Miami for three seasons and hasn’t fumbled any of the snaps. But Crosby likes the ball held a certain way and Vogel wants to check the film to see if he’s off a little bit.
“It’s really a game of inches when you come down to it,” Vogel said after the practice. “If I miss a spot by an inch or two and Mason thinks the ball is leaning more of an inside kick, it really could affect the kick.
“I mean, he on the fly was asking for some stuff, certain things because he’s experienced and (knew) what he thought needed to be done and so we made some adjustments on the fly and obviously it didn’t go the way he wanted it to.”
Last year, the Packers cut punter Tim Masthay at the end of training camp and made Crosby work with Schum. But Goode was still there and the operation went on pretty smoothly.
With two new members of the kick team, there’s a lot of potential for error.
“One was a mishit, we had a little bit of a miscommunication on one of the snaps,” Vogel said. “That may have caught him and got him off sync.”
Vogel has punted so well that barring a collapse in the exhibition games, he’ll be the Packers’ punter. As much as Thompson would like a younger, faster athlete at long snapper, he very well could give the 32-year-old Goode a call at the end of the camp.
Whatever the case, Vogel said he thinks Crosby will be fine.
“We were kicking 50-plus kicks at the time, so it’s not like we were missing easy popups,” he said. “But I know he’s a strong kicker. He’ll come back. He’ll watch the film, we’ll watch the film and we’ll all adjust. We’ll go back to our normal routine.”