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Plenty of 'motivation' for Anders Carlson in Packers' kicking competition

Balance between learning from the past and moving forward will be key

K Anders Carlson
K Anders Carlson

GREEN BAY – Through the ups and downs of his rookie season in 2023, Packers kicker Anders Carlson displayed effective resiliency.

He regularly bounced back from a missed kick to make his next one, never getting so off-kilter as to fall into a rut or prolonged bad streak.

That made his final miss last season – a 41-yard field-goal attempt that would have given the Packers a seven-point lead with six minutes left in the NFC Divisional playoff at San Francisco – all the more difficult, because there wasn't a next one. No bounce-back opportunity presented itself as Green Bay's season ended.

"It was a little tougher because you just had to sit on it for a long time," Carlson said last week. He added that it was "pretty painful" but also "a motivation" moving forward.

Which brings it around to the here and now, as Carlson finds himself in a three-way competition for the Packers' kicking job with veteran Greg Joseph and undrafted prospect Jack Podlesny. The battle very likely could go on, if not with all three contenders, with at least two through the end of training camp and the preseason.

That has forced Carlson to walk the fine line this offseason between constructively learning from the past without destructively dwelling on it. To put it bluntly, his future with the Packers depends on finding the right productive balance.

"You've got to spend time on it and learn from it. You can't just avoid it. It's the reality," Carlson said. "That was a big thing, just kind of closing that chapter. Learning everything you can from it, taking it and absorbing it all, and then moving on.

"For me, life is in the present. You can dwell on the past, you can focus on the future, but really, when you're living life, it's all about the present. That's where I'm standing and I'm excited to be here."

Last season became such a rollercoaster for Carlson it's easy to forget how well it started for the sixth-round pick. Through the first five games of his career, he was a perfect 7-for-7 on field goals and 10-for-10 on extra points.

But over the season's remaining 14 contests, including the playoffs, Carlson missed at least one kick, either a field goal or PAT, in 11 of them. He had only three games the rest of the year that were perfect like his first five, finishing 29-for-36 on field goals and 41-for-47 on extra points.

Missed field goals against the Broncos and Giants, as well as a missed extra point against the Steelers, all factored into close losses for the Packers prior to the playoff miss.

He's done the requisite study of all his kicks and if one common thread emerged, it was that several of his misses went wide left when the wind was blowing right to left.

Outside of that, he worked out much of the offseason with his older brother and fellow NFL kicker, Daniel Carlson, at their old college stomping grounds of Auburn. His brother had his own rough career start that cost him his job as a rookie with the Vikings, and he's gone on to become an All-Pro with the Raiders, so the younger Carlson is heeding the elder's rather simple advice and not lacking for confidence he'll find more consistent success soon enough.

"Just stay the course, right?" he said. "You're in the NFL, your talent's pretty good, your skill's good. It's all about sharpening that axe, and continuing to improve, little bit by little bit. Over time, results will pay off, so trust the process."

Carlson also is adjusting to the league's new kickoff rules, with the Packers working on their alignment and coverage via drills in OTAs. Under the new setup, the kicker's job is to land the kickoff between the goal line and 20-yard line, preferably as close to the goal line as possible without the ball going into the end zone.

It'll take some time for the Packers, and all teams, to figure out what'll work best, but Carlson's approach to the new rule is "you've got to embrace it."

The same goes for the in-house competition in an ultra-competitive business, and while Carlson is dedicated to being a good teammate throughout, he's just as determined to keep his job.

"If you're in this locker room, you're planning on being the guy," he said. "I think that's the right mindset. That's obviously the plan, the belief."