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Punter Kapinos Finds His Swing


Maybe it was getting to kick in a dome for the first time. Maybe it was putting together a solid week of practice after a frustrating performance in Week 2. Or maybe it was just a sign of natural growth from a developing punter trying to establish himself in the NFL.

Most likely, it was a combination of all of those factors in various proportions. But whatever the underlying reasons, punter Jeremy Kapinos enjoyed the best day of his young career last Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, which bodes well as the Packers play another road game in a dome this coming Monday night in Minnesota.

Against the Rams on his four punts, Kapinos posted career-high averages of 50.0 gross yards and 44.3 net yards, placing a career-best three inside the 20-yard line. All his punts came in the second half with the Packers protecting a lead, and his performance helped keep the field position in Green Bay's favor down the stretch.

"I think he's settled in a little bit," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "This was the third game of the year, and he looked a lot more smooth in his rhythm to me. I think that helped him."

Kapinos needed to put a rough outing the previous week against Cincinnati behind him, and he did that. Against the Bengals, two of his six punts were fairly low line drives that stayed too far to the middle of the field, and Cincinnati punt returner Quan Cosby took advantage by ripping off returns of 60 and 32 yards that set up 10 Bengals points.

Last Sunday, the hang time was much better on three of his four punts, and Slocum felt his directional placement overall was "outstanding." For the most part, he put his kicks high and between the numbers and the sidelines, limiting the Rams' options for a return.

His first punt was a high 52-yarder that return man Danny Amendola fair-caught at the St. Louis 19. His second was the only one that didn't work out as well as the Packers had hoped, a 54-yarder that lacked sufficient hang time, and Amendola returned it 14 yards. Still, a 40-yard net is a solid number.

His third punt went 51 yards all the way to the St. Louis 8, with Amendola returning it nine yards to the 17. His fourth was a 43-yarder that the Packers downed at the St. Louis 15, for a third inside the 20 and a fourth with a net of at least 40 yards.

After the Cincinnati game, when his net was an ugly 24.2 mostly due to the two long returns, Kapinos said he worked specifically on getting more lift on the ball, and a productive week of practice paid off.

"You have to have a quick memory in this league, and Coach Slocum had three things that he said on Monday (after the Bengals game) when we came in -- identify the problem, fix it and move on," Kapinos said after the St. Louis game. "We did that earlier in the week."

Slocum saw it carry over, which any coach loves to see. The performance in St. Louis marked the first time a Green Bay punter posted a 50-yard average, with a minimum of four punts, since Week 8 of the 2007 season (Jon Ryan, 4-52.3).

"He took what he had been practicing and applied it to the game," Slocum said. "The technical part of it is what you work on during the week. It's the player's responsibility to apply it in the ballgame, and he did that for the most part."

{sportsad300}Hopefully the controlled conditions of a dome will provide a springboard to Kapinos' season rather than function as only a temporary boost. In closing out the final four games of the 2008 season as Green Bay's punter, Kapinos kicked in three cold-weather games and did respectably well.

That helped him beat out the oft-injured Durant Brooks for the full-time job this season, but in the mild September weather at Lambeau Field in the first two games, Kapinos was decent against Chicago (six punts, 44.7 gross, 35.5 net) but took a step back against Cincinnati.

"We've had good weather in the other two games, so I don't think the weather was a factor," Slocum said. "But I do think that a punter looks forward to punting indoors. There's zero wind factor and it's a good environment for them to punt in."

Kapinos took advantage, and will look to do so again at the Metrodome next Monday night. All offseason, Slocum preached that he was looking for consistency at punter more than anything else, and now it's up to Kapinos to prove he can provide that in a crucial NFC North road game.

"Absolutely -- that's why he's here," Slocum said. "He's a professional and he approaches his job very diligently. I expect him to do that. He needs to if we're going to win. We need to control field position, and the punting game is a big part of that."

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