Packers formulating plan should injuries sideline kicker Mason Crosby
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers have been bringing in kickers for tryouts almost every week this season, but each of the free agents has gone home after clearing COVID-19 protocols and getting one shot at impressing the team.
The latest prospect, rookie Nick Vogel, may be the first to stick.
Kicker Mason Crosby was not at practice Wednesday and the Packers later listed him on their injury report as “did not participate” because of left calf and back injuries. It’s not known when Crosby suffered the injuries, but he was not on the injury report last week, so it’s likely it happened at some point during the victory Sunday over the Houston Texans.
Crosby did not attempt a field goal, but he kicked off six times and landed each one in the end zone for a touchback. He connected on all five of his extra points.
It’s possible he did something in warmups or the game that didn’t bother him until afterward.
The Packers had scheduled a workout Saturday with Vogel, according to the kicker’s agent, John Perla, and he has been in town going through the NFL’s five-day COVID-19 testing protocol for tryout players and new signees. Vogel arrived Sunday, so if he passes all five COVID tests, he would kick in front of Packers scouts and coaches Saturday.
If Crosby can’t play Sunday against Minnesota, Vogel will be their kicker because there are no other options unless they want to use punter JK Scott. There is no one they could bring in at this point who could get through the protocol in time to play Sunday and so he would need to be signed to the 53-man roster.
“You just want a guy who has some experience and will go out and hit good balls and be able to fill in,” special teams coach Shawn Mennenga said when asked about contingency plans several weeks ago. “Knock on wood something like that doesn’t happen, but in today’s day and age you never know.
“I know Gutey (Packers GM Brian Gutekunst) and his staff are on top of that and I have full faith in the guys they’re bringing in and the timing and those types of things that they’ll have somebody if we need him.”
Despite Vogel being the seventh kicker they have brought in for a tryout, the Packers have decided to press their luck that nothing would happen to Crosby during the week and passed on signing one of them to the practice squad.
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The 5-10, 190-pound Vogel kicked for three seasons at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, finishing as the school’s third-leading scorer. He made 47 of 64 (73.4%) of his field goals in college, hitting 19 of 23 (82.1%) in his final year.
On kickoffs, he averaged 62.7 yards over his three seasons and ranked second in the nation his junior year in touchback percentage with 71 of 80 kicks not returned. His senior year he was asked to kick directionally and had 52 of his 71 kickoffs result in touchbacks.
If Vogel must replace Crosby, it won’t be an easy task. The undrafted free agent would be making his NFL debut in a stadium where winds can be unpredictable.
If he performs well, Gutekunst has the option of signing him to the practice squad and keeping him all season so that if something were to happen to Crosby they would have someone immediately available.
The other kickers the Packers have brought in this season are Casey Bednarski, Chris Blewitt, Ramiz Ahmed, Chandler Catanzaro, Giorgio Tavecchio and Josh Gable.