Longwell And Sander Iron Out Kinks In Kicking Game


As he pantomimed swinging a golf club, kicker Ryan Longwell and punter B.J. Sander showed they remain a cohesive special teams duo.

Longwell interrupted one of Sander's locker room interviews with a pretend chip shot to signal his golf clubs had arrived through the mail.

Although Longwell cited poor holds for part of the reason for his misses against the Minnesota Vikings, the golfing buddies and locker room neighbors remain a compatible pairing. It just happens that Longwell, the kind of perfectionist coaches look for in a kicker, is very demanding when it comes to his holds.

"I hate to say Ryan's too high maintenance because he is and has been a very reliable kicker for us," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said.

A soccer-style kicker, he wants the ball tilted forward and to the right so that he can nail the ball at its sweet spot.

"It's a job of perfection," Longwell said. "(The kicking game) is not an A, B, C grade. It's a pass or fail. You either do it or you don't."

Longwell, however, has not been as close to perfect as usual. The nine-year veteran entered 2005 as the fourth most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history at 82.4 percent but already has missed three field goals from 42, 42 and 53 yards and one extra point this year. He sent a 53-yarder wide right and a 42-yarder wide left on Sunday. Those misses were especially crucial because the Packers lost to the Vikings by a three-point margin.

Sander, who assumed holding duties this year, has a difficult job. He must catch the ball and place it perfectly within 1.2 seconds.

"With holding, your kicker does not have a whole lot of margin for error," Sander said. "It's an exact science."

Sander proved to be the team's top holder throughout training camp, and Sherman does not plan on using a different holder against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I don't think that's the answer," he said.

To correct their problems, Sander and Longwell, who needs four points to reach the 1,000 points scored plateau, have continued their usual practice regimen.

"We were so close last week. We just continued what we were doing," Longwell said. "It looks good."

This week, however, long snapper Rob Davis, Sander and Longwell also have filmed their repetitions with a hand-held camera. The new camera can film within 10 feet and gives them a closer view of their form than the overhead cameras used for practice. After practice they evaluated the film and liked what they saw.

"I'm confident we'll be fine," Sander said. "We'll get everything worked out."

Sander's comment reflects the confidence he has gained this year. Last year the third-round draft pick was inactive for each game as a rookie and endured harsh scrutiny from fans and media.

He bounced back in 2005 to win the starting job this year and ranks ninth in the NFL with a 38.8 net punting average. Now he shrugs off the pressure from fans and the press.

"It's part of the job," he said. "You have to take the good with the bad."

Because of Sander's increased confidence and their new film study, the duo knows they will return the kicking game to the success the Packers have had the last several seasons.

"The reason it is a big deal that we're missing is because of the standard we've set over the years," Longwell said. "We want to get back to that and I see no reason we can't this game and the rest of the season."


Fish Eye

Tony Fisher, who will start at running back on Sunday, returned to practice Thursday after undergoing minor eye surgery on Tuesday.

Fisher hurt his left eye while busting through a wedge on a kickoff return late in the Minnesota Vikings game. After injuring his eye, he returned for the rest of the contest.

"I just fell to the ground," Fisher said. "For a second everything was a little blurry."

The laser surgery repaired small holes in Fisher's retina. Fisher deemed the surgery precautionary.

"The only reason I had to do the surgery is because they said there's always a possibility of taking a hit and having a detached retina," he said.

Observers could not even discern anything different to his eye, and he said he felt he could have practiced on Wednesday. As a preventive measure, Fisher, listed as probable on the injury report, will wear a clear visor on his facemask Sunday.

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