GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy said earlier this week he wanted to see someone “jump through the door” and win the ongoing kicking competition.
Mason Crosby might have done that, and slammed the door behind him on Tuesday.
On the final day of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field, Crosby was a perfect 14-for-14 in two kicking periods – one against the wind, one downwind – with the field goals ranging from 33 to 64 yards.
Crosby, whose longest boots were against the wind from 58 and with the wind from 64, starkly outperformed undrafted rookie Zach Ramirez, who struggled in a 6-for-16 showing after his impressive debut on Sunday led to the release of Crosby’s original competition, Giorgio Tavecchio.
“I thought Mason was exceptional,” McCarthy said. “You could see Ramirez was struggling a little bit with the timing of it, which you definitely have to be aware of. He’s only been here for three days. He really didn’t have the rhythm, the cadence and the snap down, and I think it affected him on the first set of kicks and it carried over to the second set.”
McCarthy didn’t officially declare Crosby the Packers’ kicker for 2013, but heading into Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City, it would appear Crosby’s competition is down to any kickers cut by other teams at the end of the week. (Update: Ramirez was released Tuesday afternoon.)
Since missing three straight tries in practice a week ago, which prompted the signing of Ramirez, Crosby has rebounded to make 25 of his last 26 attempts. He hit his lone attempt in last Friday’s preseason game, from 38 yards, and then went 10-for-11 in the three-headed competition on Sunday before Tuesday’s effort.
“I thought Mason hit the ball very well all week,” McCarthy said. “That’s what you look for and that’s what he’s done for the majority of his career.”
Meanwhile, running back DuJuan Harris’ career has taken an injury hit. McCarthy announced the small but powerful back is headed to injured reserve due to a knee injury that re-occurred last Friday in Harris’ first preseason action.
Harris originally hurt the knee in OTAs and was sidelined three months before returning to practice two weeks ago. After being tackled near the Seattle sideline following an 11-yard swing pass, Harris was slow to get up and limped back to the Green Bay bench.
“I could see it in his eyes when he came off the field,” McCarthy said. “So I really haven’t felt good about it since the game. That was made clear today.”
Harris didn’t specify his injury in front of a group of reporters, but he did say the knee requires surgery. Whether or not the Packers would use their one “designated to return” IR spot in this case hadn’t been discussed.
“It wasn’t the screen play. It’s been bothering me. It started swelling back up,” Harris said. “I kind of knew it, but I didn’t think it was going to be season-over trouble.
“It’s for the best. If it’s for the long term, I’m all for it.”
Harris has been patient before, waiting a long time for his shot at the NFL after getting cut by Jacksonville and coming to Green Bay midseason last year from a job selling cars. He became a huge factor for the Packers down the stretch last season, rushing for 257 yards and four TDs over the final four regular-season games and two playoff contests.
“I’m going to keep the same hunger, keep the same attitude and everything,” he said. “After the surgery, I’ll just have to work my butt off to get back to 100 percent, and when I do, you’ll see me again. Definitely not the end of my career. Don’t think everything’s over, because it’s not.”
What is over is the Packers’ plan to use Eddie Lacy and Harris as a 1-2 combination in the backfield. The pair played together for less than 1½ quarters this preseason.
The job of Lacy’s top backfield mate will now fall to either James Starks, Alex Green or fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin. McCarthy lauded Starks and Green for their improvements on special teams this summer, and both veterans have briefly held the workhorse role in the past.
That job is Lacy’s now, and he may need to be an even bigger workhorse than he planned to be. Left guard Josh Sitton probably said it best about Lacy: "He can't be a rookie anymore."
“It sucks, honestly,” Sitton said of the news on Harris. “He’s a helluva player, and he was going to be a big part of this offense.
“But you have to move on. The other guys will step up and play, and Eddie is going to be a big factor for us. It's something where it's next man up and you roll with it.”