GREEN BAY – One thing’s for certain about Packers punter JK Scott’s rookie year.
He’s never going to forget it.
From getting drafted in April, to moving to the state he visited regularly in the summer growing up, to adjusting to the bright lights of the NFL, to having his first child along the way. It’s been quite the memorable excursion for the now 23-year-old who hopes to be just getting started on a long and productive pro career.
“Me and my wife were talking about it the other night – we’re so thankful for this year, everything that’s happened,” Scott said as the season wrapped up. “There’s been so much change, but we’ve grown so much and God has taught us so much.”
That includes the ups and the downs that any rookie goes through, and Scott was no different.
He started strong, with a punt of at least 58 yards in each of his first three games, including a 63-yarder in Week 2 vs. Minnesota. He had a punt downed at the 2-yard line in Week 3.
But there was a fade at the finish, with a bad punt late in Chicago in Week 15 leading to a long return and damaging the Packers’ chances for a comeback. He followed it up the next game against the Jets with a couple of punts he’d like back.
In between there was an impressive boot from the back of his own end zone at New England that helped keep the Packers in the game, and a fourth-quarter shank at Los Angeles that gave the Rams favorable field position for their go-ahead scoring drive.
When it was all said and done, the final numbers were a 44.7-yard gross average and 38.8 net on 67 punts, with 19 inside the 20 and nine touchbacks. The last two stats, he’d definitely like a greater gap between them, because those are his biggest opportunities to affect field position in a given game.
Scott will spend the next several months processing it all while resting up and preparing for Year 2. Even compared to being Alabama’s punter through the College Football Playoff, it was a longer season than he was used to – including preseason, the NFL grind is 20 games – which was a learning experience in itself.
“There’s things I did well and things I need to improve on, particularly managing myself through the season and remaining consistent and not letting myself get fatigued,” Scott said. “Just kind of remain in a consistent place. That’s one thing I want to learn and get better in the offseason.”
He suggested his ramp up through 2019 will be a combination of honing some details and finer points while also focusing on the big picture physically.
“Certain situations … going in, inside the 20, directionally, there’s things I can be more consistent at, more efficient at, which would help,” he said. “As far as the overall sustainability through the season, I really need to work hard to get my work capacity up, to get my load capacity up for the season, so my body is going to be feeling good through the season.”
The adjustments will be ongoing, but he’ll still have veteran kicker Mason Crosby to lean on for advice or to have those “specialist” conversations.
Those were a big part of Scott’s first year, too, and seeing Crosby bounce back from the worst game of his 12-year career is worth filing away in the memory banks as well.
Scott will have a new coach on special teams in 2019, and possibly some competition in training camp, which he didn’t have as a rookie. His second season will differ from his first, the only question is to what degree.
In the interim, he’ll certainly enjoy the most extended time he’s had to date with his newborn son, who arrived shortly after the New England game, where the Packers had a standby plane ready to ferry Scott back to Green Bay should he get a call before kickoff.
The contingency plan was much appreciated. Now, it’s on Scott to plan for his own future.
“There’s ways I can improve, ways that I’ve learned and ways that I’ve grown,” he said of his rookie year.
“I’m so thankful. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll remember it forever. I’ll remember everything.”