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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Packers' kicking competition heats up

By Rob Demovsky

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It’s probably not a good sign when the head coach doesn’t know your name.

In fairness to Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Giorgio Tavecchio doesn’t easily roll off the tongue. But when McCarthy called the first-year kicker “Sergio” after Thursday’s practice, perhaps that was a telling sign about the competition between Tavecchio and veteran kicker Mason Crosby.

Whatever the reason, Tavecchio took it in stride.

Mason Crosby (2) and Giorgio Tavecchio
The Packers are ramping up the kicking competition between Mason Crosby, No. 2, and Giorgio Tavecchio.
“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time someone’s mispronounced my name or misspoken my name,” said the native of Milan, Italy. “I’ve [been called] Giovanni, so at least they’re nice Italian names.”

Tavecchio probably was more concerned with what went wrong on his 51-yard field goal that he missed off the left upright during a live kicking session.

In the first head-to-head kicking period since a brief session on the opening day of camp, Crosby was perfect on five field goals. He converted kicks of 33, 37, 43, 47 and 51 yards. Crosby, the seventh-year pro who is coming off an NFL-low 63.6 percent conversion rate last season, improved his camp mark to 9-for-11.

Tavecchio, a street free agent who was in camp with the San Francisco 49ers last summer, went 5-for-6 from the same distances as Crosby, although special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum gave him another shot from 51 yards after his miss because there appeared to be an issue with the blocking. Tavecchio is 10-for-12 in camp.

“I thought they both kicked a lot better today,” McCarthy said. “I thought obviously Mason kicked with excellent accuracy, but the height of the football is where it needs to be. I thought Sergio made his kicks, but he doesn’t have quite the lift that Mason has. It’s going to be a good battle.”

Watch for the two to have another extended kicking contest during Saturday night’s scrimmage at Lambeau Field.

Sloppy practice: The third straight day in pads produced the sloppiest practice to date in this camp.

With so many balls on the ground, McCarthy kept the players after practice and had them do additional ball-security work.

Perhaps the most glaring error was a botched pitch between backup quarterback B.J. Coleman and running back James Starks. On a toss play, Coleman appeared to put too much air under the pitch and sailed it over Starks’ head.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that,” McCarty said. “I thought it was careless, sloppy and what happens is it overshadows all the positive work that went on out there.”

There also were issues with shotgun snaps, but several were with tackle Don Barclay at center. The Packers have been working Barclay there to see if he can be a viable backup. McCarthy counted four times in which the ball was loose on the ground.

“It obviously puts a huge dent into the performance because that’s how you lose games,” he said.

Odds and ends: Second-year defensive tackle Mike Daniels continued his impressive ways in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won two of his three reps (the only loss was against starting left guard Josh Sitton) and has displayed both quickness and power. He improved his camp record to 6-7 in the drill. Anything close to a .500 mark is excellent for a defensive player because the drill heavily favors the offense. ... Though Barclay has been Marshall Newhouse’s main competition for the right tackle job, don’t count out rookie David Bakhtiari. The fourth-round draft pick from Colorado worked with the starters during a team period that was focused on short-yardage plays. ... A crew of NFL officials, led by referee Bill Vinovich, worked practice and will remain with the team through Saturday night’s scrimmage.

Medical report: Though McCarthy said he doesn’t have long-term concerns about the knee injury cornerback Tramon Williams sustained in the opening weekend of camp, he acknowledged that Williams may be seeking a second medical opinion. McCarthy, who initially said Williams will only miss a couple of weeks, said he doesn’t believe the timetable for a return has changed.

A day after dropping out because of an ankle injury, defensive tackle Johnny Jolly returned. So did safety David Fulton (knee).

That left the injury list at 13 players: receivers Sederrik Cunningham (wrist), Kevin Dorsey (leg), Charles Johnson (knee), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), LB Nate Palmer (shoulder), OLB Dezman Moses (toe), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), DE Mike Neal (abdominal), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).

Quotable: “In my opinion, it’s definitely a derogatory word, regardless of who may use it. ... There’s no difference between him saying the word and me saying the word. Regardless. You can’t stress over someone of his race saying it and then if someone of my nationality says it, it’s fine. It goes both ways. You can’t just approach him on it, you’ve got to approach everybody on it.” -- Packers rookie RB Johnathan Franklin when asked if he was offended by Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper's use of a racial slur that was caught on video.

What’s next: The Packers will hold their lone night practice of training camp on Friday at 8 p.m. ET in preparation for Saturday night’s scrimmage.