By Douglas Etten
EDGEWOOD TAHOE — Most NFL kickers are going to admit they want the ball and game in their hands in a crucial fourth down.
For Mason Crosby of the NFL Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, his wanting the ball came in a little different way one October night.
It was fourth-and-seven from the Vikings’ 37-yard line.
Inside a heated rivalry game, Green Bay was doing all they could to put the dagger deep in the chest of Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.
Green Bay and head coach Mike McCarthy wanted to put points on the board, and so they called on Crosby for a 52-yard attempt, easily within the range of the booming right-legged kicker.
Matt Flynn was the holder. As the snap came back he rose from his knee and fell back into the pocket. To his left was a wide-open Andrew Quarless — sprinting toward the pylon. Most Packers fans remember watching as the tight-end stumbled to the ground, sucking the air out of Lambeau on a play that could have ended all suspense before the mid-game break.
Good play call; poor execution.
And if Crosby had anything to say about it, he was the better option on the play. And not how most would have expected it.
“It was a called play that we had worked on, and it came in a situation where we felt like it was a great opportunity to take control of the game,” Crosby said. “I was a little bummed it didn’t work because obviously it would have been a pretty sweet play. I wish I would have gotten the ball. I was on the backside and probably would have been good for a jump ball.”
Hindsight is 20-20 and Crosby has a lot of it looking back to the Packers championship run.
“No doubt it was a special year,” he said. “Obviously we had a lot of injuries, but everyone just kind of took their roles and ran with it.”
Crosby was elected a captain of the team late in the season, and carried the team’s “C” on his jersey through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl.
“It was a great honor, but we had so much good leadership on that team that no one was really taking a back seat,” he said. “We kind of all had a common goal and worked really hard – both as a group and individually – to get there.”
Speaking from the Reno-Tahoe Airport where he and teammates Aaron Rodgers and A.J. Hawk were waiting for a charter to Los Angeles for the Wednesday night ESPY Awards, Crosby talked about how being in Tahoe for the American Century Championship gives him a way of keeping up with the competitive spirit of the off-season during the on-going NFL lockout.
“It’s so awesome to be out there,” he said. “(Edgewood) is a beautiful course. I got a little practice round in (Tuesday) and it will be fun being out there with guys like Aaron and A.J. Aaron was already trash-talking Monday saying how he’s going to be the snot out of me, so that’s a little challenge I’ve got on my radar.”
Crosby said he took a little time off after the Super Bowl win, enjoying some time with his family back down in Texas and of course, Colorado, near where he attended college in Boulder City.
“It’s always good to spend some time out of the cold,” he said. “I started getting back into a little bit of routine and tried my best to follow the off-season the way it would have been up in Green Bay. I’ve been trying to make the off-season as normal as possible. I have been back in Green Bay for about a month and a half now kicking at a local college and getting as many reps in as possible to get ready for when this thing ends.”
Being a cold-weather kicker, Crosby looks forward to when the snow starts flying that he might be able to simulate as many situations as possible. Also on his mind of course is his contract which last year saw a significant increase, drawing criticisms from some who say he was rewarded for mediocrity.
Now in his fourth season, under the terms of his contract he is to become an unrestricted free agent once the lockout ends. Green Ba, however, has indicated that they want to re-sign the kicker and Crosby has heard nothing different.
“My hope is to be in Green Bay. I hope we can get a deal done and obviously win some more championships,” he said. “Now it’s just a waiting game though.”
Crosby has had contact with some of his teammates this off-season. Heading to the ESPY Awards obviously gave him time to talk with guys like Rodgers and Hawk who all share the same goal coming back to the coming season.
“Obviously [winning the championship] is the goal every year. The biggest key to us is to somewhat forget about that we won it last year and put our mind into a new season,” he said. “Every year is a bit different. We just have to get our minds right and focus on a new challenge.”
Crosby’s big challenge this week comes at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course where he, Rodgers and Hawk are representing their team in one of the largest and most well attended celebrity golf outings in the world.
“It’s going to be fun to have that competition because of how the off-season’s been. Not being able to be with the guys and having some of that friendly competition on the practice field is something I think we all miss,” Crosby said. “It will be fun to see who can take it to who out there.”
Both Crosby and Rodgers are 50:1 odds to win the tournament in Tahoe this week. Hawk is listed as 200:1.
Doug Etten is sports editor at the Tahoe Daily Tribune in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.