GREEN BAY – When Packers rookie punter JK Scott boomed a 63-yarder with more than five seconds of hang time last Sunday against the Vikings, it felt like … nothing?
“It’s like in golf,” Scott said. “In golf, when you hit a pure shot, it’s so clean it feels like nothing. It’s the same concept.
“When the ball comes off your foot and it’s a clean hit, you know it.”
Actually, Scott had a brief moment of uncertainty, because when he looked up, he lost the ball in the sun and wasn’t entirely sure where it was going.
But it turned out to be the best punt of what has become a strong start to the rookie’s young career in Green Bay. Through two games, his nine punts have a gross average of 50.1 yards and a net of 41.4, with three punts inside the 20 against just one touchback.
Punts like the 63-yarder are why the Packers invested a fifth-round pick in Scott, a record-setter at Alabama. Leading Minnesota 14-7 in the second quarter, Green Bay’s offense went three-and-out inside its own 20-yard line, but Scott flipped the field.
It was fair-caught at the Minnesota 19, and despite a 24-yard pass play on the second play of the Vikings’ next possession, it went for naught due to the field position.
“That’s his job,” special teams coordinator Ron Zook said. “That’s what he’s supposed to do is flip the field. You want to be able to do that when you’re backed up. He’ll hopefully keep getting better and better.”
Added Scott: “It definitely feels good to help the team any way I can. I’m really just trying to focus on my process, because if I focus on the process, the outcome is going to be there.”
It’s not an accident Scott sounds a lot like veteran kicker Mason Crosby there. While Scott came to Green Bay with that mentality already, it’s been reinforced working with Crosby every day.
Scott said he’s thankful “every day” to be able to lean on another specialist like Crosby and listen to his advice on everything from practice habits to managing the ups and downs of the job.
“He knows a lot, you know what I’m saying?” Scott said. “He’s been there. He’s been in success. He knows how to handle things that don’t go your way. He’s got so much wisdom.
“Y’all don’t know how much that makes a difference. It really helps to hear his experience.”
One thing Crosby has stressed since Scott arrived after the draft is how long an NFL season really is. Scott is starting to understand it better now that the weekly grind has begun.
“Even though we played 15 games in college, we’ve already played six games here if you count preseason, and there’s 14 more. At least 14 more,” Scott said. “To watch him weekly and see his routine, how every time he goes to kick, he’s so focused he’s maximizing his reps.
“A lot of guys in college would kick balls, just keep kicking, keep kicking. But that’ll wear your leg out. Mason is a guy that will get the work he needs and make sure his leg is good.”
If there’s been one adjustment for Scott to the pro game, it’s the Packers’ focus on directional punting. He did some of that at Alabama, but other times the goals would change, to hang time for instance.
At this level, he’s required to put it all together, every time, and in the early-season warm weather, for the most part Scott has done that.
In addition to the 63-yarder against the Vikings, he also had a 59-yarder from his own end zone that was returned 13 yards by Marcus Sherels for a net of 46. Minnesota eventually bogged down at the Green Bay 30-yard line and missed a field goal late in the first half.
The only glaring negative for the punt team through two games was a 58-yard punt by Scott in Week 1 that Chicago’s Tarik Cohen returned 42 yards. The net on his other eight punts is 44.5.
Scott left that one too much in the middle of the field for a dangerous returner like Cohen, and the coverage lapsed as well. Scott can only do his part, but he’s aiming to be as reliable as possible in doing that part.
Nobody’s perfect, but so far, so good.
“I want to be consistent,” Scott said. “Over the course of a game, one play can be the difference, so I want to be a guy that’s consistent in what I do, so the team knows what to expect.
“I want to have the same routine every time, and the same process, because if I’m consistent, it doesn’t matter the situation.”