Packers rookie Anders Carlson tasked with extending impressive kicking lineage inside Lambeau Field

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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GREEN BAY – The kicking lineage predating Green Bay Packers rookie Anders Carlson extends further than the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

In the attention paid to the Packers’ three decades of Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback play, their ability to unearth elite kickers is easily overshadowed. It’s no less impressive, given the constant struggle of kicking inside Lambeau Field. If the cold doesn’t knock a kicker off course, the wind will. There are many elements most other NFL stadiums don’t present, yet the Packers have continually found kickers able to overcome the environment.

Since 1989, three years before Brett Favre arrived in town, the Packers have − with a one-year exception − had just three kickers. Chris Jacke held the job for eight seasons before Ryan Longwell replaced him in 1997. Longwell kept the job for nine seasons until 2005. In 2007, the Packers drafted Mason Crosby in the sixth round. Crosby has been their kicker until now.

After drafting Carlson in the sixth round last weekend, the Packers hope he’ll provide a transition as smoothly as the two that came before him.

“The one word is history,” Carlson said. “You kind of walk around, I haven’t really found my way around too much, but being in the locker room, being around here, the banners in the hallway right there. The amount of history, and the great players who have been through here, it’s really cool.”

Auburn kicker Anders Carlson runs a drill during Auburn pro day in March.

The Packers have not yet closed the door on reuniting with Crosby, but their lack of salary-cap space and draft-pick investment in Carlson signals their intention. Kickers don’t get drafted to not kick. The job is Carlson’s to win or lose this offseason.

Whether he succeeds will ultimately depend on if Carlson can master the weather matrix of Lambeau Field like the kickers before him. With the team conducting practice inside the Don Hutson Center, Carlson said, he hasn’t gotten a chance to enter the stadium this weekend. He’ll get his crash course in kicking at Lambeau Field soon enough.

Coach Matt LaFleur, who conducted practice Saturday after missing Friday’s opening session to attend Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard’s seventh annual Garding Against Cancer charity event, said special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was especially impressed with Carlson coming out of Auburn. Bisaccia coached Carlson’s older brother, Daniel Carlson, as the Las Vegas Raiders special teams coordinator for four seasons.

Under Bisaccia, Daniel Carlson resurrected his career after the 2018 fifth-round pick was released after just two games with the Minnesota Vikings.

“He was very high on him,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, having a history there with his brother, he’s known him for a while now. So definitely made a big impact in Anders’ ability to be picked by us, but he’s a talented guy, and we’re excited. He’s got a big leg. Certainly, he’s far from a finished product.

“We’re just excited about the talent there.”

Nobody could teach Carlson how to kick inside Lambeau Field better than Crosby. For 16 seasons, he’s made a career out of handling the elements better than almost anyone. His 1,918 career points are not just most in Packers history, but 11th most in NFL history. Just 43 points behind 10th-place Robbie Gould, Crosby could crack into the top 10 if he returns for his age-39 season. That decision would likely lead him to kick for a team other than the Packers, following Aaron Rodgers’ departure from Green Bay.

Without Crosby, Carlson said he’s looking forward to learning as much as possible from veteran punter Pat O’Donnell. The 31-year-old O’Donnell might have only one season punting inside Lambeau Field, but he’s made a career of kicking in cold weather, including eight seasons with the Chicago Bears.

“He’s kind of my caddy when it comes down to whoever the holder is,” Carlson said. “… You spend so much time together, too. My punter at Auburn, I knew the things that worked for him, the things that went well for him, and same for the holder. They know when you strike a good ball versus when you kind of have a mishit. So you work together so much, you get to know each other.”

There will be plenty of mishits. It’s life as a kicker, learning how to live with failure. Crosby weathered multiple bad years in his career, none worse than 2012. He took a pay cut after making just 21-of-33 field goals that season, but rebounded.

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Carlson’s college career included plenty of slumps. He made just 79-of-110 field goals at Auburn, kicking through a torn ACL on his plant leg and a fractured shoulder. Like any kicker, Carlson knows struggles will likely come, but his confidence has never wavered when healthy. Carlson was able to kick without a brace supporting his plant leg this weekend. Now it’s on to adjusting to life in the NFL, and kicking inside one of the league’s toughest stadiums.

“I’ve been through a lots of ups and downs,” Carlson said. “I’ve journeyed through those ups and downs. I played college football, I was there for six years, so I was there a while as well. I think I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’ve also grown a lot. And then I think the biggest thing is just being healthy now. Stacking good days on healthy days, that’s how you get the results.”

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