GREEN BAY - Derek Hart could snap the football wearing earplugs. With the Green Bay Packers field-goal unit operating on a silent snap count — the long snapper reacts to the holder lifting his hands — Hart doesn’t need to hear a cadence.
So he doesn’t think it was the noise from more than 60,000 screaming fans that disrupted his timing with holder Justin Vogel on Saturday night, but Hart couldn’t ignore what unfolded on the field.
Through camp’s first week, kicker Mason Crosby made 22 of his 23 field goals. During the annual night practice at Lambeau Field, Crosby made 5 of 11. Not even 50 percent. He missed six of his final seven, including the last four.
“I felt fine,” Hart said. “I felt comfortable. I think those guys felt comfortable too. I think it was just a chemistry thing. We work on it every day in practice and stuff. Maybe the setting had a little bit to do with it, but that’s why we do that. So we can go through that and step into the game and feel fine.”
The real test for the Packers' field-goal battery comes Thursday night when they open their preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles. Those reps carry more weight because they simulate a live game. They’ll need to be better than Saturday, the closest a Packers practice has come early in camp to simulating a live game.
It’s troublesome the Packers' field-goal efficiency at Ray Nitschke Field didn’t translate to their first showing inside Lambeau Field. Crosby said issues from earlier in camp — overlooked with their conversion rate — carried into the game-like setting.
“We got just a little bit off track with the timing, the operation there,” Crosby said, “and just kind of snowballed on us there a little bit. Things we’ve watched and talked about, but definitely need to fix on the field. There’s been a couple of those throughout camp that we’ve gotten away with, and it all kind of unfortunately unraveled there on Family Night with some of the snaps, getting the laces and things like that, just getting the timing down."
After years of consistency, the Packers' field-goal unit is undergoing a major change in camp. Gone is longtime snapper Brett Goode, replaced this offseason by Hart. If Vogel cracks the 53-man roster, he'll be Crosby's third place-kick holder in three seasons.
It'll be important for the group to jell quickly. Lest anyone forget, the Packers advanced to the NFC championship game on the strength of their field-goal operation last season, converting a pair of field goals longer than 50 yards within the final two minutes at Dallas.
"It takes some work," Crosby said. "It takes some time. Just and Derek need to get in sync with their stuff, and then I just have to trust and go. It just kind of got out of sync there on Saturday night, and unfortunately it's there in the stadium and everybody weighs that a little heavier.
"But ultimately for me, for my preparation, it's just another practice. So I look at those reps as something to learn from and move on."