Saturday, August 3, 2013
Packers kickers battle at packed Lambeau
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mason Crosby chuckled when Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy inadvertently referred to Giorgio Tavecchio, Crosby's young adversary this summer, as "Sergio" this week.
Crosby will be just fine as long as he sees his name listed in some form on the Packers' season-opening roster in about a month.
The seventh-year veteran is being challenged for the first time in training camp since his rookie season by Tavecchio, a first-year hopeful.
The two kickers took their showdown under the lights before a packed house at Lambeau Field on Saturday night. A record crowd of 63,047 turned out for Green Bay's annual Family Night scrimmage.
But Crosby has had better days in front of the hometown fans.
"Mason Crosby is competing for a job on our football team, like everyone else," McCarthy said after the scrimmage. "He definitely didn't take a step in the right direction with his performance."
McCarthy gave his two kickers plenty of opportunities to trade kicks.
And the left-footed Tavecchio, signed off the street in the offseason, may have gotten a leg up on veteran incumbent Crosby, who struggled in an extensive field-goal session to conclude the 90-minute scrimmage before a loud hometown audience.
While Crosby missed four of six attempts, Tavecchio went 5 of 6 as they alternated kicks from the same distances in what was called a "field-goal competition" on the scrimmage sheet.
"I've been hitting the ball well (this preseason). Obviously, I'm extremely disappointed with how I hit it tonight," Crosby said. "I'll have to evaluate that, break it down and then . I can't think about things like that.
"I just have to go in, now I've got to work on things and make sure I hit the ball through the uprights. That's all I can really worry about and focus on right now."
Crosby insisted his frequency of misses in the scrimmage -- he went 3 for 8 in field-goal situations, including a 48-yard try that hit off the right post in an earlier drill -- isn't a carryover from last season. He made a league-worst 63.6 percent of his field goals (21-for-33) in the regular season.
"Man, I'm way past that," Crosby said. "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."
McCarthy said Crosby's wobbly performance in game-like conditions with the crowd encouraged to cheer and yell during the kicking segments would be taken into consideration as roster decisions are made.
"That's what Family Night's for," McCarthy said. "He'll be evaluated. He's definitely got to do better than that because that's not going to cut it."
Veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains in Crosby's corner and isn't concerned by what he witnessed from the Packers' sideline Saturday.
"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."
Tavecchio could spoil those plans, however, as the Packers get ready to start their preseason schedule of games Aug. 9 against the Arizona Cardinals, back in Lambeau.
A year after the then-undrafted rookie out of Cal lost a camp battle to veteran David Akers with the San Francisco 49ers, Tavecchio looks to be a serious candidate for the job in Green Bay this August.
Tavecchio went 6 for 7 on field goals in the scrimmage, as he kicked on the Lambeau turf for the first time.
"It's sweet, especially 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. But we'll see tomorrow. It was a blessing to be out there. The fans were great."
And Tavecchio wasn't ready to declare himself the early front-runner in the big camp battle that has ensued.
In fact, he felt empathy for Crosby as he stood near his competitor on the field during his misses at the end of the scrimmage.
"I feel for him," Tavecchio said. "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."
Other highlights from the scrimmage included Rodgers leading a 10-play, 80-yard drive in the first team segment, culminating with his 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end D.J. Williams on third-and-goal.
It turned out to be the only series of the night for Rodgers and most of first-stringers on offense.
"That was the plan the whole time," Rodgers said. "It was Family Night, and I haven't had the best Family Nights. So it was nice to go down and get a touchdown and let the other guys get in there and get some work."
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson was held out of the scrimmage because of a knee injury he aggravated earlier in the week.
Rookie running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin played a lot. Lacy, a second-round draft pick, had a couple big runs.
B.J. Coleman, a second-year player who is battling Graham Harrell to be Rodgers' top backup, threw a pair of interceptions.
First-year cornerback James Nixon had the first pick and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown.
NOTES: The Packers didn't have 16 players participate in the scrimmage. Besides Nelson, notable players who are nursing injuries are RB DuJuan Harris (knee), OT Derek Sherrod (knee), DE Mike Neal (abdomen) and CBs Tramon Williams (knee) and Casey Hayward (hamstring). Harris, Sherrod and Neal are on the physically unable to perform list. . TE Ryan Taylor was taken to the locker room on a cart during the scrimmage. The nature of the injury wasn't disclosed by McCarthy. . The scrimmage was announced as a sellout in early July with nearly 75,000 tickets sold for $10 apiece. Saturday night's announced attendance topped the previous Family Night scrimmage record of 62,701 in 2006.