If the Green Bay Packers had a place kicker in camp like the guy who was in town today to retire, they would be sitting pretty.
As it stands, the Packers have a veteran who can’t seem to shake the doubts and an untested free agent who has been nothing short of deadeye Dick in practice situations – but the question about whether he can do it in games keeps rising to the surface.
Ryan Longwell, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,054 points, knows a thing or two about game situations, having spent nine years in Green Bay and his final six years in Minnesota as the Vikings kicker.
Not only does Longwell remember the 12 straight field goals he converted through the preseason and into the first week of his rookie season, but he also remembers the first one he missed with the Packers. It was week two and his first shot at a game-winning field goal at old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia – and he failed. That was a kick that motivated him and helped propel him to 15 seasons where he finished with a better than 80 percent success rate. Compare that to Crosby’s 76.8 percent success rate, including his career low 63.6 percent conversion rate in 2012.
Longwell, who met with the press today in announcing his retirement, also stuck around for the Packers practice – having time to spend with both Crosby and Georgio Tavecchio. Both have ties to Longwell – Crosby having known Longwell through the brotherhood of kickers and Tavecchio having graduated, like Longwell, from the University of California.
Here’s what he had to say after having spent some time with the current kickers:
“I’ve kept in touch with Mason. I think the world of him. I’ve gone to bat for him a ton even when I was with the Vikings over here. He is much, much better than his stats show because of the length of the field goals he attempts. I think the world of the guy. I think he’s a tremendous talent. It will work out like it’s supposed to work out. I think as long as his rhythm is fine, he’s one of the best in the league. I think Georgio has had an unbelievable camp and his mindset is so refreshing that you don’t see how the guy could ever fail. I think it will work out. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. I think they need live kicks in a live situation. As long as they both have the mindset right, I can see it work out the way it should.”
Spending time with Tavecchio and Crosby surely won’t rub success off on them, but at least for one day the Packers had a kicker in camp who had proven over the years that it’s possible to be consistent.
If kicking is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental, as Longwell said, then concentration and commitment will be the difference between Crosby and Tavecchio … and it will come to the forefront not during practice but on game day.
Maybe Longwell’s presence will make a difference … probably it won’t. But if his appearance today in Green Bay can bring any kind of luck to the Packers kickers, that would be a good thing.
Being in the presence of greatness doesn’t make one great, but maybe the inspiration will rub off long enough to allow one of these kickers to demonstrate they belong.