Crosby struggling to keep kicking job with Packers

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeAugust 6, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- It seems kickers get little attention -- good or bad -- unless or until they miss or make a game-winning play.
And that seems to be the case with the Green Bay Packers, where most the drama involves injured lineman Bryan Bulaga or the signing of free agent veteran quarterback Vince Young.
Lost in the shuffle of the big news is an intriguing kicking battle that has left veteran kicker Mason Crosby with a tenuous hold on the spot he's held for six years.
Crosby made only three of eight field-goal attempts in the team's annual Family Night scrimmage Saturday, when a record crowd of 63,047 filled most of the stadium seating bowl at Lambeau Field.
The night ended on a sour note for Crosby, who was a miserable 2-for-6 on field goals in a scrimmage-ending session in which he alternated kicks from the same distances on both sides of the field with young challenger Giorgio Tavecchio.
"I feel for him," Tavecchio said regarding Crosby's struggles. "He's a fellow kicker, and I thought he struck the ball well today. I think he struck the ball better than I did, but the results don't show that, and that's the frustrating part as a kicker."
Displeased head coach Mike McCarthy put Crosby on alert before giving the team the day off Sunday and then canceling what was scheduled to be a non-public camp practice Monday afternoon. The Packers' next practice was Tuesday morning.
"Mason Crosby is competing for a job on our football team, like everyone else," McCarthy said. "He definitely didn't take a step in the right direction with his performance.
"He'll be evaluated. He's definitely got to do better than that because that's not going to cut it."
Crosby was kicking himself for his bevy of misses but wasn't about to concede anything with his job status, a season removed from having a league-worst conversion rate of 63.6 percent (21-of-33) on field goals.
"Man, I'm way past that," Crosby said of his dubious 2012 regular season. "It was just a night I didn't hit the ball the way I wanted to, I didn't hit it on the lines I wanted to. I had great lift, I hit some good balls, but I just picked some bad lines.
"Now, I've got to work on things and make sure I hit the ball through the uprights," he added. "That's all I can really worry about and focus on right now."
The bright lights before a packed house in his summer debut of kicking inside Lambeau didn't faze Tavecchio, a first-year player signed early in the offseason to give Crosby his first camp challenge since the then-rookie beat out incumbent Dave Rayner in 2007.
As Crosby foundered, the left-footed Tavecchio was nearly flawless, going 6-for-7 on field goals in the scrimmage, including a 5-of-6 mark in the concluding competition from distances of 37 to 53 yards. Tavecchio's only miss was pushing a 47-yard kick wide right.
"It's sweet, especially (to excel in) a place like Lambeau Field," Tavecchio said. "It's world renowned for its history in the NFL, so it's a pretty special place.
"I feel like I had a decent day out there. (But) I've got to watch the film because right now I've got my emotions flowing through me, as I'm a little bit biased as to how I felt about it. ... It was a blessing to be out there. The fans were great."
Shortly after the scrimmage ended, Rodgers voiced his support for his longtime teammate, Crosby.
"I fully expect him to be our kicker, and he's made some big kicks for us since 2007," Rodgers said. "I think he's got one of the biggest legs in the league, and it's very much a matter of being consistent and I'm counting on him, as are the rest of us."
Perhaps telling about Crosby's uncertain future with the team is punter Tim Masthay joined Crosby and Tavecchio in a kickoff competition during the scrimmage. Crosby has handled the kickoffs as well as the placekicking duties for the team since his rookie year.
If Tavecchio winds up pushing aside Crosby by the end of the preseason, Masthay would be a logical candidate to take over on kickoffs, which isn't a strong suit for Tavecchio, though he did drive the ball well in the scrimmage.

--Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.