Packers kicker Crosby determined to build off career year

Offseason festivities like the Packers' Tailgate Tour are much more fun in 2014 for Mason Crosby after he connected on 89.2 percent of his kicks last season.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was the best season of Mason Crosby’s career. Considering it was the follow-up to the worst season of his career, it was the exact positive turnaround that the Green Bay Packers’ kicker needed.

But with more than three months having passed since his last in-game kick from the 2013 season, Crosby isn’t treating this offseason any differently than he did a year ago. Though he couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment that signaled his struggles from 2012 were over and that he knew he was on the right track, Crosby had an important outlook on it — one that Elsa would be proud of.

"Letting go," Crosby said before departing on the team’s annual Tailgate Tour. "That’s kind of what I have to do every year. Now, I have to let this season go. It was a successful one, but I kind of have to move on and say, ‘Here’s what I did well, here’s what wasn’t the best, here’s some things I want to move on.’ And then moving forward, focusing on this upcoming year and upcoming offseason and really taking advantage of opportunities as this offseason comes about."

Last year, Crosby being a part of the Tailgate Tour might not have been so pleasant for him, as he would have been dealing with Packers fans who were unhappy about his 63.6 percent field-goal success rate. It’s a lot easier for Crosby this year after connecting on 89.2 percent of his kicks.

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Crosby also had to be worrying about his job security last year at this time. Green Bay had signed Giorgio Tavecchio in late March 2013, giving Crosby competition in training camp for the first time since his rookie year in 2007. But, not only did Crosby outlast both Tavecchio and Zachary Ramirez, he was on the mark throughout the regular season and emerged as a much-improved player.

While the Packers could still potentially draft or sign a kicker to once again compete with Crosby in training camp (after all, perhaps that was part of the key to his success), there’s not nearly the same need for it now as there was a year ago.

"We’ll just see; obviously there’s not anybody they’ve signed right now," Crosby said. "But I’ll just take it as it comes and just look forward to going out there and competing every day like I did last year and make sure I take care of my business and execute whenever called upon."

Crosby will be taking on a new challenge this year — at least temporarily, with the NFL testing out having the ball spotted at the 20-yard-line for extra points, making each kick a 38-yard try rather than the customary 20-yard attempt. That trial will take place in Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason, but unlike some kickers in the NFL, Crosby doesn’t mind rule changes being experimented with.

"The extra points, I think we’re going to try that out in the preseason and see how it goes," Crosby said. "If we keep making all the extra points, who knows what they decide on. For us, we’ll just start practicing that kick. It’s just kind of a change of distance, a change of look. But we’ll just practice it like we do any other extra point and go out and execute it if that rule gets changed.

"If that’s the rule that happens, obviously we’ll do it in the preseason, so I’ll hit some balls from there. But I hit a lot of balls from the middle of the field, from 38-42 yards with just practicing. We’ll get some of that work in. And it seems like we’ll be moving back, doing our normal sets and it’ll be, ‘All right, now it’s an extra point.’ So that will be strange, if it does come through, to have field goals closer to what extra points are sometimes."

Crosby couldn’t exactly recall the last time that he missed an extra point, but he knew it had been a few years and that it only didn’t travel through the uprights because it was blocked.

"It’s not automatic," he said. "We have to go out there and go kick. I know up here, especially in the winter, that footing gets a little weird. You definitely pay attention to it. There are some things they could look at and make adjustments, but I don’t know if this is going to be the answer. We’ll try that in the preseason and see."

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