GREEN BAY – It’s been a long time since Packers kicker Mason Crosby has worked with a new holder.
He has a short time to get used to it.
“We don’t have the luxury of saying it’s going to take a few weeks,” Crosby said of adjusting to new punter Jake Schum, who replaced Tim Masthay, Crosby’s holder for the past six seasons.
“It’s got to be good now. We’re gonna be sharp, and go out and do our thing on Sunday. Preparation will take care of that.”
Crosby and Schum have been working diligently since Schum arrived in the middle of last week from the waiver wire. They practiced the day before the preseason trip to Kansas City but then had only one live rep in the game.
The reps have been cranked up this week and a comfort level is developing. Not that Crosby had any issues with Rick Lovato late last year and through the offseason and training camp, but the transition is probably a little smoother with veteran long snapper Brett Goode back, keeping two-thirds of the placekicking operation as it’s been for a while.
Lovato’s four games to end last season (Weeks 16-17, plus two playoffs) are the only ones Goode and Crosby haven’t played together dating back to Goode’s arrival in 2008, Crosby’s second season.
It helps that Schum is no stranger to the holding job. He learned the skill back in high school and has been a holder ever since.
“I’ve worked with a lot of different kickers and snappers,” Schum said. “I definitely have some years under my belt doing it, and it’s just second nature now.”
It also helps that Crosby doesn’t have anything odd or quirky about where he likes the ball placed or the angle it needs to be tilted.
“He has his type of lean and it’s really not different from what I’ve seen,” Schum said. “I’ve seen quite a few different styles, but he’s pretty easy.
“I’ve just told him to let me know if there’s anything I can do differently, just to make his job easier. Brett has been giving me awesome snaps. They’ve both been in this league for a while, so it’s pretty cool to work with both of those guys.”
Early in his career, a new holder was an annual ritual for Crosby. He went from Jon Ryan as a rookie in 2007 to Derrick Frost in ’08 to Jeremy Kapinos in ’09 to Masthay in ’10.
He never had an issue with any of his holders and doesn’t expect to have one now. Crosby recognizes it was a luxury to have the same holder for six full seasons, but a pro doesn’t lament the change, he executes it.
“Jake is very detail-oriented and working hard. It’s just about getting the timing of the operation down,” Crosby said. “We adapt and adjust. Our job is to go perform on Sunday. We all know what this team expects and we’re going to be able to do it.”
Another change related to Crosby’s game that officially begins in Week 1 is the new touchback rule. A touchback on a kickoff now brings the ball out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20.
Since the NFL moved the spot of the kickoff ahead five yards from the 30 to the 35 in 2011, 42 percent of Crosby’s kickoffs (179 of 426) have gone for touchbacks. How the Packers strategize around the new rule will be revealed on Sunday.
“I’m going to do whatever Coach decides to do on that front,” Crosby said, obviously not giving away any of the team’s plans.
Regarding the rule itself, Crosby called it “a work in progress.” The safety-related change from 2011 has reduced the number of kickoff returns, and therefore the dangerous collisions that go along with them, but the new rule could lead to more returns if kicking teams don’t want to just give the ball to the opponent on the 25.
Crosby wonders if a kickoff that goes all the way through the end zone should come out to the 20, while a touchback that’s fielded with a knee taken could come out to the 25, as a bit of a compromise.
“I don’t think they want to take the play out of the game,” Crosby said. “I think they’re doing everything they can to not eliminate the play, but they’re searching for ways to make it safer and still exciting. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like.”
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