As Roster Finalized, Focus Falls On Special Teams

As he made the final roster cuts over the weekend, General Manager Ted Thompson still needed to shore up the long-snapping position on special teams. He not only did that Monday, he made two other moves that showed how heavily special teams weighed on his mind at cutdown time. - More Press Release: Additional Roster Moves

As he made the final roster cuts over the weekend, General Manager Ted Thompson still needed to shore up the long-snapping position on special teams.

He not only did that Monday, he made two other moves that showed how heavily special teams weighed on his mind at cutdown time.

Thompson signed veteran punter Derrick Frost, released over the weekend by Washington, to replace Jon Ryan. And then he spared special teams standout Tracy White by releasing fellow backup linebacker Abdul Hodge from a deep linebacking corps to make room on the roster for Brett Goode, the team's new long snapper.

So while the Packers will enter Week 1 of the 2008 season with a new snapper, punter and holder on field goals (Frost replaces Ryan there, too), they'll maintain some continuity on their coverage units with White, whose 33 special teams tackles over the past two seasons is tied for the top mark on the team with Jason Hunter.

"There is change, but there is always a little change this time of year, whether it be at running back like in past years or at punter and snapper here, so it's just part of it," Thompson said. "We're trying to get better."

Thompson noted the biggest improvement he's hoping to see at punter is consistency. Ryan had two solid seasons in Green Bay, but the strong-legged CFL product had his ups and downs, and had struggled particularly in poor weather.

In Frost, a fifth-year veteran who spent one season in Cleveland and the last three in Washington as a full-time punter and holder, the Packers hope they've found a punter with better directional skills and the ability to perform in difficult conditions.

"He looks like the kind of guy that can kind of adapt in those situations, can kind of drive the ball when you need to and you have to against the wind," Thompson said. "Some of that factored in."

In a horribly windy game last December in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants, Frost had to punt nine times and averaged a respectable 37.6 yards (35.3 net), with three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

With temperatures in the mid-30s and wind chills in the mid-20s at the evening kickoff time, Frost estimated the winds reached 40 miles an hour during that game, as evidenced by quarterbacks Todd Collins and Eli Manning combining to complete just 26 of 77 passes on the night.

"Those games are hard to make it out with terrible numbers sometimes," Frost said. "Just a brutal situation. We had a couple of those."

Despite NFL averages (41.4 gross, 36.4 net) similar to or slightly below Ryan's (44.5 gross, 37.0 net), Frost's directional and situational numbers are better. In his four seasons, Frost has placed 97 of 317 career punts (30.6 percent) inside the opponents' 20-yard line, while having just 24 (7.8 percent) go for touchbacks. In two years here, Ryan placed 35 of 144 (24.3 percent) inside the 20, with 23 touchbacks (16.0 percent).

"I think the things I do well are some of the intangibles people don't always notice," Frost said. "I really do pride myself on holding and directional punting and just trying to be a well-balanced player. I think that's what they like."

Frost admitted he has had his own bouts with inconsistency, specifically tailing off in the latter portions of two seasons. The first time, his first year in Cleveland, he attributed to a strained ligament in his knee. Then last season, after averaging 45.9 yards on 17 punts through the first three weeks, he averaged just 39.5 yards the rest of the regular season to finish with a 41.0-yard average.

The bad-weather game against the Giants factored into that, but Frost said he learned a lesson in training and preparation as well.

"Last year, looking back on it, I think I kicked too many balls," he said. "I think I wore myself out. I'm a real hard-nosed guy and I work really hard, and sometimes I don't work smart, and this offseason I really focused on working smarter, not wearing myself out.

"I train hard too, and it's not that I'm out of shape, but your body can only kick so many footballs. I think that was part of it."

Frost was released over the weekend by the Redskins, who decided to go with rookie sixth-round draft choice Durant Brooks from Georgia Tech. He said he had workouts lined up with Pittsburgh and Seattle, and another was expected with New England, for the early part of this week when the Packers called and signed him right away.

"You have to trust your evaluations," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "That's why we grade players. That's why our personnel department goes to preseason games, and we have boards on both ends, not just the college draft but also the pro personnel, and this is just a matter of trusting your evaluations."

{sportsad300}As for holding on placekicks, Frost has just one week to work with the new snapper, Goode, and kicker Mason Crosby, which admittedly isn't much time with the Monday night season opener against the Vikings fast approaching. But he's confident they'll get the operation down, and so is Crosby, who confessed neither he nor Ryan, one of his best friends on the team, saw this move coming.

"It's one of those situations that's the nature of the business," Crosby said. "Jon was a great holder. I never had to worry about it, but it took time. It's a trust you have to build.

"It's the most important thing for my job. It's what I depend on the most, making sure that snap and that hold is good. But obviously the guys they're bringing in, we're not going to have an issue I don't think. We're going to go out there, they've done this before, they have to get that snap perfect and the hold, and as long as it's on the spot and leaning right I'm going to make sure I hit it through."

Goode, an Arkansas alum and native who spent training camp in 2007 with Jacksonville but was not in a training camp this summer, said he was pouring concrete for a driveway in 93-degree heat in his home state when he got the call that the Packers had picked him up. He was brought in to replace J.J. Jansen, who injured his knee in the preseason finale last Thursday and went on injured reserve.

"It was an easy decision to get up and leave," he said. "You don't ever want to root for somebody to get hurt or to screw up, but everybody knows those things happen, and I'm just here to fill in in his place and do the best I can to help the team win."

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