Packers: Mason Crosby looking to get back to form after rough 2021

GREEN BAY — With wind gusts topping out at nearly 40 miles per hour Tuesday afternoon in Green Bay, it did not seem like ideal conditions for a kicker to have a lot of success. But that is exactly what the Packers got from Mason Crosby as they started Week 2 of OTAs. The veteran was locked in, hitting all six of the field goals he attempted, including a 56-yard bomb with room to spare.

Success like that last year was hard to come by for one of the few players still around from the 2007 NFL Draft. After nailing his first six kicks, including a game-winner against San Francisco, Crosby went 19 for 28 the rest of the way. The nine missed attempts were the most in the NFL and tied for the second-most in his career. Crosby’s ugly campaign featured three missed kicks against Cincinnati before eventually hitting the game-winner, while he also had three kicks blocked. One of those came in the 10-3 playoff loss to the 49ers in a game where scoring opportunities were at a premium.

“I don’t think you ever just truly flush something,” Crosby said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. “If you don’t learn from it and make sure that you continue to improve on the things that didn’t go well and build on the things that did go well, then stuff will repeat itself.”

The rough season by the field goal unit, along with a complete breakdown throughout the rest of the special teams, led to the dismissal of coordinator Maurice Drayton after just one year. The disaster forced coach Matt LaFleur to put a premium on finding the right guy to get things turned around and he settled on former Las Vegas’ assistant Rich Bisaccia to make it happen.

“I have a lot of respect and a lot of love for Rich,” Crosby said. “He has done it at a high level for a long time as a coach. He is who he is every day. I love his consistency. He is going to be the same person every time you approach him. He gives everybody a fair shake. He’s going to tell you how he feels and you know where you stand with him.”

Also gone is punter and holder Corey Bojorquez. A combination of poor snaps from Hunter Bradley and Steve Wirtel, in addition to Bojorquez’s inability to consistently handle them, was a least partly to blame for Crosby’s issues. While Wirtel remains, the Packers signed long-time Chicago punter/holder Pat O’Donnell in free agency. Crosby and him made news earlier this offseason when O’Donnell lived in the kicker’s basement for a couple of weeks while the O’Donnell’s looked for a place in Green Bay.

“I think relationship-wise that really kind of got us off on a good start,” Crosby said. “We kind of learned each other’s personalities and how we operate together. For me, relationships and all those things are just as important as having (the kicking process) exactly right all the time because we can talk and trust each other and make sure that it’s right whenever that time comes and we need it.”

The ball was flying off Crosby’s foot during Tuesday’s practice. Certainly, some of that was the wind at his back but the soon-to-be 38-year-old also appears physically ready to bounce back from what was the second-worst year of his career. Only the 2012 campaign, where he hit just 63.6% of his kicks, was worse than his 73.5% clip in 2021. Crosby responded by hitting 89.1% of his field goals in 2013, the highest percentage of his career until going 22 for 24 (91.7%) in 2019 and making all 16 of his kicks in 2020.

“The one good thing I know about Crosby is he’s come back from a down year to play really well,” Bisaccia said when asked about Crosby earlier this offseason. “I’m excited about being around him, learning from him, seeing what his strengths are and where we can go forward and keep improving.”

Green Bay did bring in some competition for Crosby in former undrafted free agent Dominik Eberle. He has played in just one game in his NFL career, going 2 for 3 last season with Houston. He appeared to be limping a bit in Tuesday’s practice and did not attempt a kick after going 4 for 6 last week.

Back in the fold

After missing last week’s session open to the media, cornerback Rasul Douglas was on the field Tuesday. One of the stories of the year for the team last season — going from practice squad player in Arizona to leading Green Bay in interceptions — re-signed with the Packers early in free agency on a 3-year, $21 million deal.

“I wanted to be here,” Douglas said of staying with Green Bay. “I think the coaches and my teammates wanted me to be here as well. So, it was all kind of a mutual decision.”

Douglas’ return, paired with a healthy Jaire Alexander and the excitement around the future of 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes, gives Packers a legitimate argument that they have the best trio of cornerbacks in the NFL. Combine that with the deepest defensive line the team has had in recent memory, the potential for a ferocious pass rush led by Rashan Gary, and All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell roaming the middle, expectations are high.

“We’re trying to be the best,” Douglas said of the defense. “I think we’ve got the pieces.”

Players missing

OTAs are voluntary. No one under contract is obligated to be there, though some do have bonuses within their deals for attending a certain percentage of the offseason. Still, that does not mean coach Matt LaFleur would not like to have more of his team on the field.

“Each guy has a right to make that choice. If you’re asking me, I want everybody here,” LaFleur said. “I think some of the thought process may have changed over what has transpired the last two years, especially with our COVID situation and we didn’t have OTAs. Now, with (all teams) being open, you’d like to see as many guys as possible here.”

The list of guys not in attendance included quarterback Aaron Rodgers, outside linebacker Preston Smith, tight end Marcedes Lewis, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, safety Adrian Amos, Alexander, and Gary.

“I’m not comfortable with anybody not being here,” LaFleur said with a chuckle. “I’d like them all year. Again, it is their choice. Next week is mandatory minicamp, so there’s consequences, obviously, for not coming.”

Tweets from Tuesday’s practice