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Green Bay feels like right place for kicker Anders Carlson

Connections for Packers’ sixth-round pick the prelude to his next chapter

K Anders Carlson
K Anders Carlson

GREEN BAY – If there's such a thing as serendipity in the NFL Draft, then the Packers selecting Auburn kicker Anders Carlson definitely qualifies.

To (try to) make a long story short, Carlson is the younger brother of the Raiders' All-Pro kicker, Daniel Carlson. The special teams coordinator with the Raiders who helped Daniel reach his All-Pro status is the Packers' current coordinator and assistant head coach, Rich Bisaccia.

The reason the elder Carlson ended up with the Raiders and Bisaccia in the first place dates back to a game in Week 2 of 2018, when Daniel – then a rookie fifth-round draft pick with the Vikings – missed consecutive field-goal tries from 48, 49 and 35 yards. The latter two misses came in overtime and could've/would've won the game for Minnesota.

The Vikings released their rookie kicker the next day and the Raiders signed him a month later. The game that left Daniel Carlson briefly in NFL purgatory? It was against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

So now younger brother Anders is looking to launch his career in the same place that became the inflection point for Daniel's, with the same coach who helped turn that career around.

All those connections certainly weren't lost on Carlson as he studied his draft-destination possibilities, and it's his story to write from here.

"Yeah, Green Bay is a great situation," Carlson said during the recent rookie minicamp. "When you kind of looked at the landscape of kicking, there were a lot of open spots honestly. It was a great year for kickers coming out of college.

"But Green Bay was definitely my top pick looking in the draft. Just the good things I've heard about the program in total, and Rich as well."

Carlson met Bisaccia, an intense leader who connects well with his players, at a Raiders practice once while visiting his brother. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst was open about Bisaccia's belief in Carlson's talent strongly influencing the decision to draft him in the sixth round despite a rather rocky college career.

That's what makes the younger Carlson's challenge different from his older brother's. While Daniel was an All-American kicker at Auburn who didn't hit a major patch of adversity until turning pro, Anders has battled through his share of rough spots already.

In college, Anders sustained a torn ACL (on an onside kick recovery attempt) and a shoulder injury his last two seasons at Auburn that hampered his efforts to follow up on a dynamite 2020 season in which he went 20-of-22 on field goals, including 2-of-3 from 50-plus yards.

Over the '21 and '22 seasons, amidst the injuries and then requiring a brace on his non-kicking leg last year, he was a combined 26-of-38, including 0-of-4 from 50-plus.

While those struggles brought his draft stock into question, they also prepared him to deal with difficulties as he tries to make his mark at the next level.

"I've been through a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I think I've journeyed through those ups and downs. I played college football, was there for six years. I've learned from my mistakes and also grown a lot. The biggest thing is just being healthy as well. Stacking good days on healthy days, that's how you get the results."

He finally was healthy during the pre-draft process, removing the leg brace in January and then prepping for the combine and pro day with three-days-a-week workouts.

Bisaccia saw enough at Auburn's pro day to endorse Carlson's ability, and kicking unencumbered was both a relief and a boost of confidence for a prospect who knew he had a lot to prove.

"I was ready to take it off, I'm not going to lie," Carlson said of the brace. "The day I took it off, it felt great. I knew it was strong. I had been working out without the brace, doing a lot of jumping, plyometric stuff. I knew it was strong enough. It was just a matter of 'in-game,' now I could take it off."

Carlson joins an undrafted kicker from last year, Parker White of South Carolina, as the candidates vying to replace the franchise's all-time leading scorer, Mason Crosby, a 16-year veteran who remains unsigned on the free-agent market.

Gutekunst hasn't closed the door on Crosby's potential return, though Carlson was assigned Crosby's locker upon his arrival in Green Bay. As with a couple other positions, the Packers want to see the competition play out amongst the youth on the roster before making a final decision on a possible veteran signing or reunion.

For now, Carlson is blocking all that out and focusing on getting more acquainted with an accomplished coach he knows can help him make it in this league. He described Bisaccia as "detailed" during a rookie minicamp walk-through and is ready for the tough love he's heard about from his brother.

"The biggest thing is he pushes you," Carlson said. "He gets you uncomfortable, gets you to places where you'll feel like you're in a game, and if you can perform then, you can perform in a game."

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