That is because a punting battle between first-year man Tim Masthay and rookie Chris Bryan hasn’t given the Packers as many opportunities to evaluate them in the first three games as the team would have liked.
“We have one more game left and we’ll just continue with the same routine that we have gone with in the first three games,” McCarthy said. “I think we need to punt more. I don’t feel comfortable saying that. I wouldn’t be opposed if we punted a little bit more in this fourth game to get some more information on these two guys.”
Through three preseason games, the Packers have punted just 11 times. Masthay has posted a 47.6-yard average with a 40.6-yard net average on his five kicks, while Bryan has posted a 44.0-yard average with a 40.0-yard net on his six punts.
Masthay punted just once last Thursday night against Indianapolis, but made the most of his one opportunity. Punting from the Green Bay 47, Masthay skied a 45-yard kick to the Indianapolis 8 that returner Brandon James muffed, and fullback Korey Hall recovered in the end zone for the score, giving Masthay a 53-yard kick and net. Bryan punted twice for a 41.5-yard average, but both of his kicks were low ones, the first a 38-yarder that went out of bounds and the second a 45-yarder that was returned 6 yards.
Masthay handled the holding duties throughout the Colts game for kicker Mason Crosby, which he did for the preseason opener against Cleveland as well. Since Bryan served as the holder for the second preseason game, he is expected to take over those duties this Thursday against the Chiefs.
Masthay also gave Crosby some relief in the second half by taking over the kickoff duties. Masthay kicked off five times, with one kick going to the Indianapolis 1, another a yard deep into the end zone, and one for a touchback. He saw time again kicking off during Sunday’s practice.
“Mason would still be our No. 1 kickoff (if Masthay makes the team), but gosh, I thought Tim did an excellent job the other night and he does a very good job, particularly with the wind today, he did a very good job today,” McCarthy said. “It’s just another kicker that you can have and can help on the wear and tear of Mason. Mason is still relatively young; I don’t think we are at that point in his career there, but it is a nice option to have.”
All of those aspects will probably factor in when it comes time for the Packers to make their final decision before Saturday afternoon’s final roster cut-down, but in the end it will largely come down to what McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum have talked about throughout the preseason, and that is performance in the games.
“We feel that we have exhausted both Chris and Tim as much as we can in the practice structure,” McCarthy said. “We have used Family Night and punted extensively there. About the only thing left is live game action, so we would just like to have as much information as possible on both punters.
“I think they are both talented and I think they are both ascending punters. We’re going to pick the right one and the one that doesn’t stick here, I’m pretty confident will be punting in the NFL somewhere else. I think that much of both men.”
Playing the waiting game
Heading into the final preseason game, Al Harris remains on the physically unable to perform list, and the veteran cornerback declined to put a timetable on when he expects to be back from a significant knee injury sustained last season in Week 11 against San Francisco.
“I’ve just got to do what I got to do to make me personally feel right and make the organization feel right,” Harris said. “So I won’t step out there and ruin my reputation or I won’t step out there to do anything detrimental to the team. We’re just taking it day-by-day, just see how it feels, and listen to the knee.”
McCarthy said Harris’ rehabilitation is going well and that he is hitting the targets that the medical staff has set for him. One option would be for Harris to start out the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. He would not count against the 53-man roster, but wouldn’t be able to return until after the sixth game.
“At this point in my career I just want to be healthy and I want to be the same guy that left the field Week 11 (last year),” Harris said. “That is all I am concerned about.
“The big picture is far more important than any personal goals or anything like that. Like I said, we’ve just got to wait and see and see how it turns out.”
Safety Will Blackmon (knee), cornerback Brandon Underwood (shoulder), running back Quinn Porter (knee), tackle/guard Allen Barbre (back), defensive end Jarius Wynn (concussion) and the three PUP players – Harris, safety Atari Bigby (ankle) and running back James Starks (hamstring) – sat out practice.
McCarthy listed Blackmon as “day-to-day,” and said he didn’t come out of the Indianapolis game as well as the team would have liked. He will be evaluated further on Monday.
The injury to Underwood is to the same shoulder he injured during his redshirt freshman season at Ohio State, which required surgery, so the team was being cautious. He did not provide a timetable on his return. With Underwood out, rookie cornerback Sam Shields took most of the snaps as the nickel back.
Porter sustained a “pretty significant” knee sprain in the fourth quarter of the Indianapolis game, but McCarthy said the team didn’t know how much time he would miss.
Barbre had a procedure done to his back, and McCarthy said the team would know more Monday as far as how the injury responded to that.
Linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Desmond Bishop (hamstring), tackle/guard Bryan Bulaga (hip), tackle Chad Clifton (knee) and defensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf) were not in pads but went through the opening jog-through portion of practice.
McCarthy said he expected both Matthews and Bishop to be ready for Week 1 at Philadelphia. He said Bulaga has a chance to practice on Monday, while Clifton had some swelling in his knee.
Jenkins said that he still has some soreness in the calf, and that he doesn’t want to risk having a setback that could put the regular-season opener in jeopardy for him.
“I’m pretty confident (he’ll be ready for Week 1),” Jenkins said. “Even with it being sore today, I was still able to do some positive things on it. It was just things where I had to limit myself and say, ‘I don’t think this is the best idea to try and do too much.’ I’m just being smart with it.”
Linebacker Brad Jones, who has been battling a shoulder injury, started practice in pads to test out a shoulder harness but did not actually practice with the team. McCarthy said he has a chance to play in Kansas City on Thursday.
Additional coverage - Aug. 29