GREEN BAY—Kicker Zach Ramirez felt every week the phone was going to ring, even when it hadn’t for more than three months.
When it finally did, last Thursday morning, Ramirez was sleeping, but since then he’s had no time to rest. Roughly 72 hours after the Packers called, he earned a contract in a pre-practice workout Sunday morning and was thrust into a three-headed competition with Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio for a full-time NFL gig.
“That’s all I wanted,” Ramirez said. “All I wanted is basically another opportunity.”
His first was in May for Seattle, at a rookie tryout camp, but back then Ramirez still hadn’t fully recovered from a knee injury sustained last fall. On the first extra point of the first game of his senior season at Portland State, a defender crashed into the outside of his leg, which ultimately ruined his chances of getting drafted.
After missing a couple of months, he was healthy enough to finish his senior season, but through the pre-draft process and into the spring, his leg strength “wasn’t up to par,” he said. Continuing to kick on his own – sometimes for 2 ½ hours a day, when he was bored – and then attending one of Chris Sailer’s kicking camps recently, he started feeling like his old self, when he made 24 of 27 field goal attempts (88.9 percent) in 2011 at Portland State, with one of the misses coming up a yard short from 65.
The leg Ramirez knows he has was on display Sunday at Ray Nitschke Field, as he went 10-for-11 in an extended field goal session, making his final two kicks from 60 and 63 yards with a significant breeze at his back.
“I’m totally confident. I’ve practiced from that range before,” Ramirez said, when asked about sizing one up from 63 in his first training-camp practice. “The 70-yarders, I have some on YouTube. Every time you line up, they expect you to make it.
“My opportunity is just as good as theirs,” he continued, referring to Crosby and Tavecchio. “I feel if I keep kicking the way I am, I’ll have a good chance.”
Ramirez’s lone miss was wide right from 45 yards. Crosby also was 10-for-11, missing wide left from 53. Tavecchio was 9-for-11, missing wide right from 45 and wide left from 63. All three kickers were good from 60.
“The further you go back, the harder you want to hit the ball, but a day like today I felt like I was swinging like 30 percent and the ball was flying,” Tavecchio said. “I feel like I’m locking in more and more. It’s excitement. We’re finishing this race.”
Through three preseason games, Crosby is 4-for-4 on field goals while Tavecchio is 1-for-2. Ramirez will presumably get his first preseason action on Thursday in Kansas City, though there’s no guarantee the Packers will take all three kickers there. The roster must be reduced to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon, and it currently sits at 85.
Crosby has suffered through two bad practices, leaving the competition open by missing five attempts in the Family Night scrimmage and three more last Wednesday. The following morning is when Ramirez got the call.
“I don’t get frustrated,” Crosby said. “I didn’t have the numbers, didn’t have the year I needed to last year. I’m working hard every day to try to earn my spot on this team and be a good teammate.
“Every time I step on the field, I want the guys around me to have confidence I’m going to put it through, and that’s what I’m trying to show out there.”
The Packers’ confidence in Vince Young continues to rise, as Young has all but locked up the No. 2 quarterback job following his best preseason outing to date last Friday vs. Seattle. Young engineered an 80-yard TD drive, moving him on the depth chart ahead of Graham Harrell, who was released.
While Young echoed Mike McCarthy in acknowledging he’s still competing with B.J. Coleman, the backup position is clearly Young’s to lose. McCarthy mentioned he wants to expand Young’s repertoire of plays for the final preseason game.
“It’s just all about the preparation, how much work I put in this week,” Young said. “What I love about here, you can just tell Coach what you feel comfortable with, and if he doesn’t feel like (a play) is something you’re comfortable with, he’ll just scratch it out.
“I’m still catching up. It’s a lot to learn right now. I feel like a lot of extra work behind the scenes will help me get to where I need to get.” Additional coverage - Aug. 25