Super Bowl could come down to a few good kicks
Forget tundra and the Ice Bowl. Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby is just fine with the idea of kicking indoors for the Super Bowl.
Close the Cowboys Stadium roof, shut out the wind and keep the ice outside. It all makes Crosby's job that much easier.
''Obviously, we play in a tough environment at Lambeau,'' Crosby said. ''We play in a lot of cold games. We get used to it as much as you possibly can. When you go inside, you don't have to worry about footing, the wind, just the elements in general. You can go out there and just kick the ball, trust where it's going to go, your technique and not have to make too many adjustments as far as the elements are concerned.''
The Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be fairly well matched going into Sunday's Super Bowl, each with a high-powered offense and stingy defense. So the game could come down to the feet of Crosby or Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham.
Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum says Crosby is used to dealing with worse weather than most kickers. So any pressure he might feel Sunday will be mitigated by near-perfect kicking conditions.
''He is a very talented guy with a big leg,'' Slocum said. ''He has to deal with some wind conditions that a lot of the guys in indoor stadiums or in the South don't have to deal with. He has done a great job with that. His mindset is excellent in dealing with that. Fortunately, we are going to be playing in a game where the weather conditions are going to be pretty favorable Sunday.''
Suisham is a journeyman who struggled while kicking in several NFL camps since entering the league in 2005. But, he might have finally found a home in Pittsburgh. He replaced the popular and once-reliable Jeff Reed in November and finished the regular season 14 of 15 on field-goal attempts.
''I love it in Pittsburgh,'' he said. ''I love Heinz Field. I love the fans. I love everything about Pittsburgh and I'm so happy to be there.''
Suisham, who missed a 43-yard field goal in the divisional playoff against Baltimore, shakes his head at the fact he could decide the outcome of a Super Bowl.
''Three months ago, I was out of work,'' Suisham said. ''You get used to playing football, that's what you do, and you worked for it every week. When you're out of it, certainly it's uncomfortable when Sundays come around and you're at home.''
If either offense stalls outside field goal range, pressure will shift to the punters.
Both teams will be familiar with Jeremy Kapinos, who was sitting at home two months ago, waiting anxiously for another chance at the NFL.
Then, his phone rang and it was the Steelers. They needed a fill-in punter after Daniel Sepulveda was injured, and Kapinos was on a flight from Arlington, Va., the next day.
A few tryout kicks and he had the job.
''I certainly wasn't thinking that this was where I was going to end up,'' Kapinos said, ''but I was pretty confident that if something came up and I had the opportunity, I'd take advantage of it.''
After all, he expected to be punting for the Packers and helping them make a championship run. Instead, he wasn't re-signed last season and went home angry. After a one-week stint earlier this season in Indianapolis, he now gets a chance to help beat the Packers team that rejected him - in the Super Bowl, no less.
''The past is the past,'' Kapinos said. ''I think my emotions fall more with the fact that this is the Steelers and because I went to Penn State. A lot of my friends and teammates are Steelers fans and you always hear about them, so that means more to me than anything else.''
Kapinos, who averaged 41.1 yards in regular-season games with the Steelers, could play a pivotal role Sunday by helping establish field position against the tough Packers defense. It could be the perfect capper to a journey that has led him to 11 NFL camps.
Green Bay's Tim Masthay knows about uncertainty. The first-year Packers punter was a standout at Kentucky and signed with Indianapolis in 2009, but was cut during training camp. He was working as a part-time tutor when the Packers signed him to a reserve/future contract in January 2010.
He got off to a shaky start but has been perhaps the Packers' most improved player in the second half of the season. Masthay played a critical role against the Chicago Bears, holding him to three punt returns for 16 yards in the NFC championship game.
But, Masthay will be just fine if he doesn't see the field at all Sunday. The Packers' offense was so potent in their Jan. 15 playoff victory at Atlanta that Masthay didn't have to punt once.
Masthay practiced at Cowboys Stadium this week, and hasn't gone too far out of his way to get advice on how to handle the pressure of playing in the Super Bowl.
''There is a quote that I can remember from college that our coach used to say, and I think about still all the time: 'Don't give up what you want the most for what you want at the moment,''' Masthay said. ''That hasn't been something that I just used this week, but something that I've carried with me for a long time and always will.''