Tim Masthay needed a little more than a week to fend off Cody Mandell's challenge for the Green Bay Packers' punting job.
The Packers released the Alabama alumnus prior to their ninth practice of training camp on Monday and three days before their first preseason game in New England, effectively ending the team's first punting competition in five years.
Mandell got off to a slow start during the offseason program, but appeared to take a step once training camp began. He was splitting reps evenly with Masthay, including during Saturday night's Family Night practice when he had three punts averaging 35.3 yards with 4.67-second hang time.
Still, Masthay will be the first to tell you the competition isn't over just because he's the last punter standing.
"I certainly take it as a vote of confidence from the organization, but by no means do I take it as, 'You're guaranteed to be the punter,'" Masthay said. "I feel like I've still got about 25 days, I think, until preseason's over. I've got 25 days to keep working to improve, keep working to perform. That's my focus."
Masthay openly admits he struggled during the second half of last season. Even during when things were going right – he averaged 47.0 gross yards and 42.2 net yards per punt at the bye week – he felt like something was amiss. Masthay wasn't controlling his punts as well as he'd like.
That led to him experimenting too much in-season, and his gross (40.1) and net (33.6) averages dipped significantly on his last 21 regular-season attempts. Masthay finished the year with lowest net average of his career (37.0), which was 30th among 32 qualified punters.
He also had a pair of punts blocked and was on the receiving end of Marcus Thigpen's 75-yard punt returned for a touchdown In Week 15.
"I think for the most part I made a couple main mistakes," Masthay said. "One was I allowed too many negative thoughts to distract me. That was one, a big one. And two, I felt like I hurried myself a little too much. There's a John Wooden quote that I'm a big fan of, that says, 'Be quick, don't hurry.'
"I think those were the two main mistakes I made. I don't plan on making 'em again."
Masthay said earlier this offseason he felt a big shift in his confidence after talking with new special-teams coordinator Ron Zook, who called him shortly after his promotion to tell Masthay he believed in him.
Regardless of Mandell’s signing in January, Masthay’s biggest advisory was himself. He attended meetings and lifted weights with Mandell on Monday morning before receiving word shortly before practice his competition had been cut.
"When I found out, I took a minute or two to refocus and just sort of lock in, like, 'Hey, this doesn't change anything. Go focus on what you need to do,'" Masthay said. "So, really, that was about the only reaction I had, was to take a couple minutes to refocus and make sure I was ready for practice."
Masthay averaged 49.0 yards on his four punts during Monday's padded work. He also held for all six of kicker Mason Crosby's made field goals. The battery improved to 28-for-28 in camp whereas Crosby was 6-for-10 when Mandell was holding.
Masthay understands a punter's employment is always tenuous. There's no playbook involved and teams can change punter whenever they like. With a good showing in the preseason, the Packers will have their same trio of Masthay, Crosby and long-snapper Brett Goode together for a sixth consecutive season.
"I've worked with Tim these last five years, and we've gotten a million reps," Crosby said. "We've worked a ton together. I thought Cody did a good job of kind of working on that and getting to where he looked as similar to Tim as far as operation as we could get, kind of in the relatively short time we had to work together.
"These are the tough things about the business we're in. I just hope he keeps working hard and gets another chance."
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