GREEN BAY, Wis. — When the Green Bay Packers announced Monday morning that kicker Giorgio Tavecchio had been released, it seemed that it was down to a two-man battle for that spot. However, even after releasing Tavecchio, the Packers haven’t counted him out of the race.
“We had a chance to visit this morning and what I told (Tavecchio) in a meeting, really, he’s still part of the competition,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The kicking competition is not over. We feel we have a very good handle on where Giorgio is as far as his capabilities, his performance.
“There is a case, a scenario where we may bring him back.”
Basically, Tavecchio will continue to compete for Green Bay’s kicker job without actually being around the team. It sounds strange, but the Packers are claiming that Tavecchio’s release is just about having to get down to 75 players by Tuesday’s NFL deadline and not an indication that he lost out to the incumbent Mason Crosby.
“Giorgio is still a factor with our football program,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. “He’ll still be on our list in the event that we go that direction. We had to do something with the roster, so here we are.”
Asked directly if Tavecchio has a realistic chance of winning the job despite being released, Slocum said, “Still possible.”
Based on the results of training camp, Tavecchio outperformed Crosby. Tavecchio made 56-of-64 field-goal attempts (87.5 percent), while Crosby was 53 for 67 (79.0 percent).
“I thought (Tavecchio) did a good job when he was here, improved the whole time he was here,” Slocum said.
Green Bay signed Tavecchio on March 26 to give Crosby a challenger. Crosby had been unopposed the past five years after beating out Dave Rayner in 2007 as a rookie. But Crosby’s NFL-worst 63.6 percent accuracy rate on field-goal attempts last season couldn’t go unnoticed, and the Packers’ answer was adding the 23-year-old Tavecchio, who was cut a year ago in training camp by the San Francisco 49ers.
Crosby will now go head-to-head against Zach Ramirez, who signed with the Packers on Sunday and immediately made an impact by making 10 of his 11 field-goal attempts in practice.
McCarthy never wanted three kickers on the team at the same time. Though Tavecchio showed good accuracy during his five months in Green Bay, nothing that he — nor Crosby — did was enough to convince the Packers that the team had found its best option.
“We had three kickers on the practice field; I think that illustrates exactly how we feel about the kicking position,” McCarthy said Sunday before Tavecchio’s release. “There’s a job available and someone needs to jump through the door and take it. That hasn’t happened yet.”
Ramirez was brought in with the hope that it could help Green Bay’s front office and coaching staff make a final decision.
“We were not satisfied that we had someone win the job yet,” Slocum said.
The question with Tavecchio had been leg strength. With the wind strongly at the kickers’ backs Sunday, he was the only one of the three to miss from 63 yards out. Crosby and Ramirez both successfully booted it through. Tavecchio also struggled on kickoffs, which prompted the Packers to get punter Tim Masthay ready in that area.
“Mason’s got a very powerful leg,” Slocum said. “Ramirez, it looks like his leg is really strong. Those guys stand out. But I think Giorgio has plenty of leg to kick field goals in this league.”
Slocum then described Tavecchio as a “potential NFL kicker.”
Tuesday’s practice will feature a kicking competition between Crosby and Ramirez. Then, in Green Bay’s preseason finale Thursday in Kansas City against the Chiefs, the plan is for both Crosby and Ramirez to be involved.
“We’re hoping to resolve it sooner than later, but we’ve gone this long and it’s important for the remaining two kickers to take advantage of their opportunity (Tuesday) and in the game in Kansas City,” McCarthy said.
By early Monday afternoon, Tavecchio had already collected his belongings and was in Minneapolis waiting for a connecting flight back to his hometown of San Francisco. Though Slocum wouldn’t give specifics, there is a chance Tavecchio could be traveling back to Green Bay before the regular season begins.
“I think I’d be wrong to get into hypotheticals at this time,” Slocum said. “We’ve got a body of work that Giorgio went through here. We’ve collected that. Mason is still working and we’ve got Zach Ramirez here, and we’ll just move forward and take a look at how it goes (Tuesday) and then gameday. That’s really our next two evaluations.”