GREEN BAY – Out of sight, out of mind is not a mantra by which Tim Masthay lives.
For the second year in a row, the veteran Packers punter is trading punts in practice with another candidate for his job.
But just because Masthay actually sees his competition day after day doesn’t mean he views the fight to keep his gig any differently than when no one but him is punting at Ray Nitschke Field.
Handling a task every fall that only 32 individuals across the NFL get to perform, while many multiples more toil in obscurity hoping for their next chance to crack the elite club, Masthay never lets himself get comfortable.
“I say that to people sometimes and I feel like they don’t really believe me – I don’t have a clue what job security actually feels like,” Masthay said after a recent OTA practice. “I’ve never experienced it. Every single day, whether there’s another guy taking reps or not, I’ve felt like I’m competing.”
That’s one reason Masthay has held the job for six seasons now, since winning his first head-to-head battle back in 2010 against Jeremy Kapinos.
Last year was Masthay’s second in-camp competitor in Cody Mandell, and this year it’s a Green Bay native and undrafted rookie from Minnesota, Peter Mortell.
As he pushes for a seventh year in Green Bay, Masthay has a resume that speaks for itself. He holds the team records for career gross (44.2 yards) and net (38.7) punting averages. A combination of a dynamite coverage team along with what Masthay called his “best directional year” in 2015 led to a single-season franchise mark for net average at 40.2.
Looking solely at that, it sounds like Masthay has nothing to worry about, but he knows exactly why a side-by-side competitor was brought in, again.
“I did not have my best hang time and distance year,” Masthay said of 2015. “My common theme last year was I’d hit three or four really good punts and then one bad punt, and obviously the bad punts stick out.
“Overall, I thought I hit the ball very well, but I’ve got room to improve for sure.”
His inconsistency was encapsulated by the two playoff games in which he hit four punts apiece. After an impressive performance in the wild-card round at Washington (45.3 gross, 44.0 net), he struggled six days later in the divisional game at Arizona (35.8, 32.8).
That disappointing finish still bugged Masthay the other day as he reflected on last season, but he’d be grinding away on film study and fundamentals regardless. That’s just how he operates, and while the approach speaks to his longevity in the league to this point, special teams coordinator Ron Zook has tried to get Masthay to let go mentally at times, too, and just kick.
“I think Tim knows what he has to do, and it’s no different than the way it was last year,” Zook said. “So far, he looks like the old Tim to me when I first got here two years ago.”
Also in Masthay’s favor is that he’s been kicker Mason Crosby’s holder for the past six years, but he’s not counting on that alone to stick around.
He’ll bank on diligence and dedication to his craft before anything else. To paraphrase Zook, even if at times those traits can serve as both best friends and worst enemies, Masthay has been through this drill before. To him, no matter how it looks from the outside, he’s been through it every year.
“The only thing that changes when another guy is in camp is less reps. That’s it. Nothing else,” Masthay said. “I’ve always thought of an NFL punting job and the Green Bay Packers’ punting job as a day-to-day job. There’s free agents on the street, there’s other guys currently under contract with other teams that won’t be at some point this summer, and there’s the guys in this room, me and Pete, right now.
“There is always competition.”