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Crosby Not Resting On Solid Rookie Year


NFL coaches often say the biggest jump a player can make is from his first year to his second.

Believe it or not, that even applies to players who were successful their first season, like Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby.

A sixth-round draft choice in 2007, Crosby finished his rookie season with few, if any, regrets. He won a job in training camp, hit a game-winning field goal in his first NFL game, went on to make 79.5 percent of his kicks (31-of-39), and boomed 14 touchbacks.

But if the recently concluded offseason is any indication, Crosby was just getting started and he's positioning himself for that second-year leap.

In an impressive display during last week's mini-camp at the Don Hutson Center, Crosby drilled several long-range field goals with plenty of distance to spare. He hit a pair of 47-yard field goals with the ball sailing well above the top of the uprights as it went over the crossbar. And he hit a 52-yarder with the ball barely below the top of the uprights when clearing the crossbar.

From what distance those kicks would have been good is impossible to know, but it's safe to say all would have traveled another 10-15 yards in the air had they not hit the Hutson Center wall.

So, is Crosby's right leg, known for its strength and power coming out of Colorado a year ago, even stronger now? He says it is, and it's because of all the work he put in without a ball the past several months.

"I think it's a credit to the offseason program," Crosby said. "My first offseason as an NFL player, I'm glad I was here. We did a lot of good agility drills, a lot of good legwork, and I feel I'm getting stronger in my upper body as well.

"I do feel like I'm hitting the ball well, and I feel comfortable as well. I think I'm just hitting the ball consistently, and in the offseason even if I wasn't hitting balls I was working drills, a lot of work that helps out in the long run. I feel flexible and feel good."

Crosby said his offseason work included running a lot of sprints, as well as hurdle drills and box jumping. He focused not just on strengthening his legs, but also his core, and improving his flexibility.

Special teams coordinator Mike Stock said Crosby also has slimmed down a bit from his listed weight of 212 last year, mostly as a result of the speed training he did during the offseason program.

"All the kickers and punters, they're working with fast, quick-twitch muscles if you will, so running 10 miles isn't going to help them," Stock said. "Speed, sprints, things like that ... short distances, fast things on the treadmill, fast things on the bike. Those things help."

Stock did downplay Crosby's mini-camp exhibition a little, noting that at this time of year, his leg is as rested as it's going to be, and he was kicking in the climate-controlled indoor facility.

But with Crosby's leg looking even stronger than it did a year ago, it seems simply a matter of when, not if, he'll become the first Packers kicker to make a field goal of 55 yards or longer.

Crosby nailed a 53-yarder for his first NFL field goal in the season opener against Philadelphia last year, three quarters before his 42-yard game-winner. That was just one yard shy of the franchise record for longest field goal, held jointly by Green Bay's previous three kickers (Chris Jacke, Ryan Longwell and Dave Rayner).

But after that first one, he had just four more attempts from 50-plus (making two), and none from

longer than 52.

{sportsad300}"I think I showed last year I had a strong leg, but I think even moreso I'll prove this year they can send me out there if they need (a long) one at the end of the half or any situation they need it," Crosby said. "I think there might be a chance at that (record). It's one of those I can't really plan on it or think about it, but when that time comes I'll be ready to do it."

A greater focus than distance for Crosby is his accuracy. His 79.5 percent rate was an improvement on Rayner's 74.3 percent from the previous year, and he missed back-to-back field goals only once, when consecutive 49-yard tries against Carolina were blocked and wide right, respectively. This year he said he's shooting for 85 percent, which was a success rate Longwell topped four times in nine years here.

He also wants to improve on his 14 touchbacks, which were the most by a Green Bay kicker in 16 years (Jacke had 15 in 1991). And he'd of course like to see his PAT streak continue. It stands at 108 in a row, dating back to his sophomore year at Colorado.

But those are all topics of discussion for the regular season. Crosby plans to enjoy the five-week break before training camp, which will include him getting married, and he plans to return to Green Bay about two weeks before camp begins to maintain his strength and conditioning and start kicking to get his leg ready for the long preseason grind.

Even without a kicker competing with him, training camp and the preseason games will be valuable for working with the team's two long snappers, J.J. Jansen and Thomas Gafford, one of whom will be replacing the retired Rob Davis this season.

"You just work on the timing and trust that it's going to be there every time, and go with it," he said. "Both of these guys here are doing a great job, and it's one of those things, every day you have to work it a few times makes sure the timing is there. That's all it is. I have the end part but there's a lot that goes into it before I kick the ball."

Even moreso than last year, there's plenty going into it as he's kicking the ball, too.

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