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Kicking Competition Barely Getting Started


During the last two organized team activities (OTAs) this past week, Green Bay kickers Dave Rayner and Mason Crosby took their first kicks in team (11-on-11) drills.

Prior to that, they both had been kicking in individual drills only. So, in a sense, the competition for the kicking job officially "kicked off" this week.

But don't read too much into it. Both kickers know there's a long way to go, and nothing will be decided in June, or anytime soon for that matter.

"It's going to be a long process," Crosby said.

Both kickers attempted four to five field goals outside on Wednesday, and then were part of some run-on field goals inside the Don Hutson Center on Thursday. The latter workout was open to the media, and Rayner missed two tries from 46 yards, while Crosby made his from that same distance.

Rayner isn't overly concerned, however, because he hasn't primed his training for OTAs. He'll soon will start the process of getting himself ready for training camp, when the repetitions become more frequent and the scrutiny more intense.

"The month before I'm going to kick a lot so when I get into training camp, I'm in shape," Rayner said. "But I'm not going to have to kick a ton in training camp to get in shape."

Rayner won the kicking job last year midway through the preseason schedule when the team released veteran Billy Cundiff. He went on to hit 26 of 35 field-goal attempts (74.3 percent) and 31 of 32 PATs.

He won't be easy to unseat, but the competition from Crosby will be legitimate in every sense.

Rather than simply bring in a veteran free agent to give the appearance of competition for Rayner this summer, the Packers drafted Crosby out of Colorado in the sixth round, later than many draft experts predicted he'd be available.

With a strong leg and a track record for making long field goals in college, Crosby has an advantage over perhaps another rookie trying to win a job in Green Bay because he encountered plenty of cold, windy days in Colorado, the kind of conditions he'll encounter plenty at Lambeau Field.

"Everything is about the wind that you hear here," Crosby said. "I've noticed that on the practice fields. It's stuff you can't control, and I look at it as a good challenge and something to keep my focus up."

At the same time, though, Crosby doesn't have a respectable NFL season under his belt like Rayner does, and there's a bit more pressure every time he kicks, even in a June OTA.

Rayner certainly wasn't happy about missing two kicks on Thursday, but it was no cause for alarm. It wouldn't have been had Crosby missed, either, but any challenger trying to knock out an incumbent is in a slightly different state of mind.

"Every time I step on that practice field right now I have to kind of have a game mindset and prepare for it just the same way," Crosby said.

That said, Crosby feels he's settling in well and he's not about to let the challenge in front of him overwhelm him, either.

"You can't make it more than it is," he said. "When I'm on the field, I feel comfortable, and you just have to kind of zone everything out."

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