Packers kicker Mason Crosby keeps priorities in order during stressful time

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GREEN BAY – Mason Crosby had plenty of stress this past weekend, but little of it had to do with uncertainty regarding the kicking competition that was thought to define his past six weeks.

No, Crosby was dealing with more pressing matters during the Green Bay Packers' training camp. Crosby’s wife, Molly, faced a “relatively serious” medical situation during the past month, he said. Though Crosby declined to give specifics on his wife’s health, he said Molly needed surgery Friday.

So when Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst texted Crosby on Saturday morning, informing the veteran kicker he’d won his competition against challenger Sam Ficken, it was only his second-biggest relief of the day.

The first, Crosby said, was that his wife’s surgery was successful.

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby chats during a break while shooting a commercial for Lodge Kohler in Ashwaubenon.

“It was nice to have a good result with her operation,” said Crosby, who was at the hospital when Gutekunst texted him, “and then get the news about Year 13. It was a sigh of relief on Saturday, for sure. … Those things, in the scope of life, are the most important things. I want to make sure that my family is always taken care of first and foremost, and my job is I get to come in here and kick a ball and have fun with my buddies and my teammates.

“So I had freedom and peace in that. We were excited whenever we knew it was all kind of behind us and we could start moving into this new phase.”

Crosby, the Packers’ all-time points leader, will open his 13th season Thursday night at the Chicago Bears. He’ll try to rebound from a disappointing 2018 season, the reason he found himself in a competition this offseason.

His struggles last year never dipped to the depths of Crosby’s disastrous 2012, but they included a five-miss game in a 31-23 loss at Detroit. A game-winning kick against the San Francisco 49ers was also sandwiched by missing a potential game-winning kick against the Minnesota Vikings and a potential game-tying kick against the lowly Arizona Cardinals. The latter was the final play of Mike McCarthy’s tenure as head coach.

Crosby said he feels sharper entering Week 1 this year, having gone through a genuine competition these past few months.

“I can’t say it was like any other camp,” Crosby said, “but it was one of those where I felt like I really stuck and stayed true to my process and worked on the things I wanted to work on, and went out and executed in the team situations in the field-goal periods, and made sure that every day I was just kind of building to a certain point. Today (Sunday) in practice, I felt like it all kind of came together. I felt really solid hitting the ball, and that’s what it’s all about, is the preparation getting ready for the regular season.”

Crosby was even with Ficken in the preseason, each making one field goal over the course of four exhibitions. In practice, he outkicked Ficken. Crosby made 16 of 17 field goals in camp, while Ficken was 28-for-35.

“I think almost you get a few more game-like situations,” Crosby said, “as far as every kick mattering to the point of they’re charting everything, watching every kick. Not just to see it go through, but how it flies and all this stuff.”

Shepherd living in the moment

For a few moments Sunday, Darrius Shepherd quietly spoke with Davante Adams, his new neighbor in the Packers' locker room. On paper, there couldn’t be two more opposite ends of the wide receiving spectrum. Adams was a second-round pick, a two-time Pro Bowler and a top-10 pass catcher in the league. Shepherd went undrafted and was invited to try out at the rookie minicamp and became a training-camp sensation before sweating out cut day.

But on Sunday, as the pair chatted, they were two practices away from playing the Chicago Bears in the regular-season opener together – and that’s all Shepherd was focusing on.

“I will look at it when I’m done playing,” Shepherd said of the incredible odds he overcame to get to this point. “Right now I’m just worried about what I can do next to keep improving. I want to be the best I can be and if I’m reflecting on or dwelling on that then it’s not helping me move forward. So I’m locked into this week and what I can do to help the team this week and give it my best.”

In four preseason games Shepherd led the Packers with eight catches and two touchdowns and was fourth in yards with 68 (8.5 average). He also returned five kicks for 110 yards (22.0) with one fumble lost. He returned five punts for 46 yards (9.2)

With Equanimeous St. Brown being put on injured reserve to start the season, Shepherd beat out 2018 draft pick J’Mon Moore and fellow undrafted rookie Allen Lazard for the last spot in the receiver’s room.

Burks out for four weeks

The Packers are preparing for inside linebacker Oren Burks to be sidelined for about the next four weeks, a source said. The second-year linebacker tore a pectoral muscle in the preseason opener against Houston on Aug. 8.

Rookie tight end Jace Sternberger missed practice for the second straight day and he appeared in the locker room in a walking boot. He injured his left ankle in the preseason finale against Kansas City on Aug. 29. Fellow rookie Darrius Shepherd (hamstring) also missed his second straight practice.

Rookie cornerback Ka’Dar Hollman participated in practice on a limited basis with a neck issue. He was wearing a red jersey for the second straight day and could not face contact. Also limited were right tackle Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), tight end Jimmy Graham (finger) and cornerback Kevin King (hamstring).

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