Kicker Crosby back on sure footing with Packers

November 2, 2013

 
Green Bay Packers Mason Crosby kicks a field goal during the game against the Detroit Lions at the Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wis., Friday, October 07, 2013.

GREEN BAY From being on unsure footing to returning to the top of his game, Mason Crosby has had quite the ride this season with the Packers.

Field-goal tries are no longer a fingernail-biting, roller-coaster ride in Green Bay. That was so 2012.

Crosby was selected the NFL special teams player of the month this week after leading the league with 50 points and 13 field goals in October, when the Packers went 4-0. He's s a reliable option again heading into the divisional showdown Monday night against the Chicago Bears.

"I think it says something about his resolve, his work ethic about his ability to overcome adversity," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said Friday when asked about the accolades for the seventh-year kicker.

Times were tough after Crosby made just 21 of 33 field-goal attempts last season for a league-worst 63.6 percent success rate. Coach Mike McCarthy brought in Giorgio Tavecchio and rookie Zach Ramirez during training camp bringing in Ramirez in the last week of camp but Crosby outlasted them both.

Now, he's 17 of 19 for an 89.5 percent success rate. Crosby was 13 of 15 in October, with his two misses coming from 44 and 52 yards.

McCarthy said this week that once Crosby won the job out of camp, he had no concerns. There's a history with Crosby, McCarthy said.

"He went through a tough spot. I believed in the man, I believed in his ability," McCarthy said. "It was more of a mental tough spot that he was going through. I think what we put him through from a competitive standpoint in training camp I think it's good for all of us. And he responded."

What's more, Crosby has been saving drives with the offense sputtering at times in or near the red zone. Crosby is 10 of 10 from inside the 40.

There doesn't seem to be any big differences in terms of preparation or mechanics. The focus midweek is on getting "quality reps," he said, and trying not to over-kick. Too many practice kicks might lead to fatigue.

"I'm making sure my mindset is, in practice, that I need to make these kicks, focused in on almost trying to put myself in (game) situations. I think that's really been helpful," Crosby said.

Winning the kicking race in the preseason may have given him an edge, too. He said "that competition in camp and different things have really taken me to a different level, and I feel solid."

And he's just enjoying the job. Success breeds confidence. Slocum said Crosby "is in a good place with his rhythm and mechanics."

"I think success is more fun, and just leave it at that," Slocum said.

More concerning of late on special teams has been kickoff return coverage. Cordarrelle Patterson had a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week for the Vikings during Green Bay's 44-31 win. The Browns returned four kicks for 189 yards two weeks ago, while the Browns had four returns for 102 yards on Oct. 13.

Injuries may be partly to blame for the spotty coverage. There's a trickle-down effect to special teams, when players formerly second- or third-teamers are thrust into more prominent roles on offense or defense. They might be replaced on coverage teams with new signees or additions off the practice squad.

Slowly, the Packers are starting to get players healthy. This week, inside linebacker Brad Jones has been a full participant after missing a few weeks with a hamstring injury. McCarthy is also optimistic about the chances of tight end Ryan Taylor playing Sunday after missing a few weeks with a knee injury.

Just in time with Bears returner Devin Hester, who excels at scoring touchdowns, up next.

Also Friday, receiver James Jones (knee) practiced in pads on a limited basis. Jones, who has missed the last two games, will be re-evaluated Saturday.


Packers WR Jones questionable for Monday night

GREEN BAY, Wis.  The last time James Jones and the Green Bay Packers played their oldest rivals, he caught three touchdown passes in the Packers' 21-13 win over the Bears in Chicago last December.

With the Bears coming to Lambeau Field, the timing might be right for the Packers to get a key piece back on their injury-depleted offense.

Jones, the team's veteran receiver who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, practiced again Saturday and has been listed as questionable for the Monday night game against the Bears.

"He did a little more than yesterday, so we'll see where he is," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice.

Jones had limited work on the field as the Packers wrapped up their preparations for the NFC North matchup, and McCarthy wouldn't speculate on whether Jones will play.

"Frankly, it's up in the air, but he's doing everything he can," McCarthy said.

Jones wasn't any more revealing when he spoke to reporters Saturday. He put his chances of playing at 50/50.

"We'll see how my knee reacts coming in tomorrow, (hopefully) get no swelling or anything like that," Jones said.

Jones admitted having Chicago next on the schedule in a prime-time game is an incentive to resume playing.

"It is Monday night, it is the Bears, so it'll put a little extra on it," Jones said. "I felt better (today). I'm mostly just going to see how it reacts tomorrow. If it reacts pretty good tomorrow, we might have a decent shot. But if I wake up sore and all that stuff, I don't know."

NFC North-leading Green Bay (5-2), which has won four straight games, will continue to be without receiver Randall Cobb (leg) and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) for an extended period.

The possibility of having Jones in uniform again Monday had fellow starting receiver Jordy Nelson excited Saturday.

"To get him back out there, it's another playmaker, another veteran back," Nelson said. "The young guys have done a good job of filling in for now, but you want James back in there. He had (a league-high) 14 touchdowns last year. He's a threat every time he gets the ball and every time he runs a route, so it's good to have him back."

The Packers defense, which will be without outside linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb) for at least one more game, is expected to have inside linebacker Brad Jones available to play Monday.

Jones has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. He had full status in practice the past three days and is probable for the game.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers suggested the team would be careful about how much Jones plays.

"We'll work Brad in, we've got to monitor his reps, make sure we don't overwork him his first game back, but I know he's excited to get out there and play," Capers said.

Jamari Lattimore, a young player who has been productive as the starting replacement for Jones with two sacks in three games, remains in the team's plans for contributing on defense.

"You'll see Jamari at times because he's certainly played well enough to warrant getting some time," Capers said.

Outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot) didn't practice this week and is doubtful.

Cornerback Sam Shields (toes), added to the injury report, didn't practice Saturday but is probable for the game.

"He got stepped on (in practice) yesterday you get one of those small corners getting stepped on by an offensive lineman," Capers said. "I think he was just sore today, but I think he'll be fine."

Associated Press