GREEN BAY – Brett Goode’s entry into the NFL was a strange story. Rick Lovato’s is even stranger.
The Packers’ new long snapper had his first practice with his new team on Wednesday, oddly enough just five days after he was in Green Bay for a workout with a group of specialists.
Whether fortuitous timing or an awful jinx for an eight-year veteran who had never been hurt, Lovato’s successful workout last Friday had the Packers instantly prepared to replace Goode when an MRI surprisingly revealed a torn ACL in his knee on Monday.
Goode played through the injury during Sunday’s game in Oakland, which Lovato was watching on TV with no idea he’d be getting a call Monday morning with instructions to get on a plane in a few hours.
“I’ve been training for this,” Lovato said after Wednesday’s practice when he met with reporters at his locker. “I’ve been waiting for a moment like this for a long time now, and I’m ready. I’m ready to show everyone that I can do this.”
Goode felt the same way back in 2008, when his phone rang while pouring a concrete driveway in Fort Smith, Ark. In Green Bay’s final preseason game, J.J. Jansen had injured his knee, leaving the Packers without a long snapper just a week before the regular season began.
Now, the Packers are two games from the playoffs, with a high-profile game coming up Sunday in Arizona that’s do-or-die in their quest for the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.
It’s quite a time for Lovato, a rookie from Old Dominion, to make his NFL debut. He played in the preseason with the Bears this past summer but was released. He then had a workout a few days later with Miami, but nothing materialized.
Since then, he’s been working at a sub shop owned by his father and uncle in New Jersey and working out with a college teammate at a nearby gym to stay ready.
“This is something I’ve done a million times,” said Lovato, who began long snapping as a sixth grader and had the job beginning with his true freshman season at Old Dominion.
“I’m ready to go out there and keep quiet. I don’t want anybody to know my name.”
That’s the mantra of all long snappers once the games roll around. Until then, Lovato will continue his crash course with Goode, punter/holder Tim Masthay and kicker Mason Crosby to make the transition both as swift and as seamless as possible.
“It’s just making sure the timing is there,” said Crosby, who has considered himself “spoiled” by Goode for the past eight years. Crosby said only a few times ever has a field-goal snap from Goode had to be adjusted by Masthay to get the laces facing out before the kick. His velocity and rotation were so consistent that Masthay rarely had to work or spin the ball upon putting it down.
“That’s something we don’t take for granted,” Crosby continued. “We worked here today with Rick and we’ll make sure we get more work in tomorrow, make sure everything’s as clean as possible. We can’t really relax and slow down here. We have to bring him into the fold and make sure he’s as consistent as Brett is.”
Lovato believes he can and will be. In addition to taking all the physical reps, he’s also studying Green Bay’s blocking schemes for punts and placekicks as quickly as he can, while getting familiar with Arizona’s schemes as well.
“I’m sure they’re going to try to bring some pressure on me as a rookie,” he said. “So I have to be ready for anything.”
Given what’s transpired in the last week, that approach is nothing new.
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