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Mason Crosby follows his worst season with his best season

Offseason competition pushed Packers kicker toward career year


GREEN BAY—In bouncing back from the worst season of his career to enjoy his best, Packers kicker Mason Crosby didn't think about the dozen field goals he missed in 2012.

Instead, he thought about the two dozen he made in 2011, the 27 he made in '08 and '09, the previous career-high 31 he made as a rookie in '07 … you get the idea.

"I just sought out all the positive things I could draw from previous years, from the good things that have happened in my career," Crosby said. "That's what I went after. Positive motivations, things I could really carry forward. All the negativity, missed kicks, I just erased them from my mind and moved forward."

The focus and recovery were equally impressive. Just one year after an abysmal field-goal percentage of 63.6 (21 of 33) nearly cost him his job, Crosby posted a career-best 89.2 percent accuracy (33 of 37) in the regular season.

Including two field goals in the playoffs, Crosby ended the season having made 16 in a row (thanks in part to a Steelers penalty in Week 16 that wiped out a blocked kick).

Having restructured his contract prior to the regular season to take a lower base salary with numerous incentives, Crosby was able to earn all the money in his original contract for 2013. He even added another franchise mark to his many records, making the longest outdoor field goal in team history with a 57-yarder at MetLife Stadium in Week 11, one yard shy of his franchise-best-in-any-stadium 58-yarder at the Metrodome in 2011.

That 58-yarder in 2011 was part of a string of 16 straight he made to start that season, which led to a then career-high 85.7 percent for the year (24 of 28). In retrospect, Crosby believes that trying to live up to that in 2012 contributed to his horrific slump.

"I was trying to re-create that season again, and we can't re-create things," he said. "You can't replay a year. You can't just try to re-create those moments.

"I think that's what I did a good job of (in 2013). I just started fresh. Here are my goals."

He began the year in a long offseason competition for his job with former Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. In training camp, a third kicker was briefly added in Zach Ramirez.

Crosby had an awful "Family Night" scrimmage and one other rough practice in camp, but he shook them off and concentrated on each day being a new battle. He ultimately held off the competition, took the restructured contract in a "prove it" year and then entered the season as though every day he was still battling.

"No one was standing next to me, but I made sure when I went out to practice, whenever I was on the field, I was competing," he said. "Having not necessarily high or low emotions, but being passionate about it and having a little intensity."

He never let his season get off track, and he resumed the kickoff duties mid-year, too, with his directional and placement skills. He made 10 straight field goals to start the year, but after he missed from 44 yards out at Baltimore in Week 6, he made three more by the end of that day. A 52-yard miss against Cleveland was followed by five straight makes over the next two games.

Even when he missed two straight, from 53 and 42, against Philadelphia in Week 10, they became his last misses until the nullified block in Week 16, and he was voted a playoff captain by his teammates for the third time.

The battle-every-day mentality Crosby adopted and maintained was undoubtedly a factor. It made for a long year, in a manner of speaking, but not in the same manner that 2012 was a long year.

"I think the competition paid dividends," Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "Mason is an excellent competitor. It's a testament to his work ethic and his will to compete, and it paid off."

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