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Training Camp Report: Crosby Comes Back Strong

Third-year kicker Mason Crosby already has had his share of ups and downs through this training camp, but after another down day on Monday, the always even-keeled Crosby didn’t let it get to him. He simply looked at the film, made some fundamental corrections, collected his thoughts before Tuesday’s workouts and came back with another strong showing. - More Press Conference Transcripts - Aug. 11: Mike McCarthy | Ted Thompson

Third-year kicker Mason Crosby already has had his share of ups and downs through this training camp, but after another down day on Monday, the always even-keeled Crosby didn't let it get to him.

He simply looked at the film, made some fundamental corrections, collected his thoughts before Tuesday's workouts and came back with another strong showing.

"That's what my goal is," Crosby said. "You have to come back and make the kicks the next day, and that's what I'm doing."

Crosby had a tough time in an extended field-goal kicking period during Monday afternoon's practice, making only six of nine kicks that ranged from 28 to 50 yards. One of the misses was from 28, while the other two were from nearly 50, followed by two makes from around 50.

Just like last week, when Crosby struggled in a run-on field-goal drill and made only one of four tries from 40 yards, nearly all of his misses were well-struck but off to the right. That prompted him to go back to the film room, and even though nothing glaring caught his attention, he did feel he needed to "tighten up" his technique.

He did so on Tuesday morning, hitting three straight field goals from better than 50 yards, including one from nearly 60. All three kicks had plenty of distance to spare. He had bounced back last week as well, going 2-for-3 when he got another chance at the run-on drill.

"Between a make and a miss, if you watch film there's not usually a ton that looks different," Crosby said. "It's minor things, just a little adjustment, little alignment things.

"I feel like, as far as mis-hits, I'm not mis-hitting the ball. I'm making good contact, it's just minor adjustments. I was behind the ball today and hitting it well."

That's the kind of kicker Crosby is proving to be in his young career, one who's able to rebound. When he missed a 52-yard try at a game-winner at Minnesota last season, he made nine consecutive field goals over the next five games. Then when he had a potential game-winner blocked in Chicago, the next week he nearly obliterated the league record by falling just short on a 69-yard free-kick attempt.

Of course, Crosby would rather not have the struggles in the first place, and that's the next step in his development - more consistency. That's been difficult to achieve in this training camp because Crosby has been working with backup snappers and holders at times - in addition to the regular pairing of snapper Brett Goode and holder Matt Flynn - but he didn't use that as an excuse for his misses.

"It's practice, it's training camp," he said. "We're making sure that, God forbid, if there's injuries we have contingency plans, so we're working other snappers, other holders, just so we have those reps with them. Guys are different. Not bad, good or anything, just different.

"It's one of those that each time you get a different look, I have to go out there and adjust to that. It's part of the game and part of training camp, and it's good to see those situations and adjust to them."

Getting antsy

Injured linebacker Nick Barnett is doing whatever it takes to keep himself busy and engaged with the defense's transition to the new 3-4 scheme. Often during team (11-on-11) periods, he can be seen in the middle of the field, 40 to 50 yards behind the defense, reading the play script and going through the motions of some of the reads and reactions.

Off the field, he's taking the elementary school approach - using flash cards.

"Me and my wife do a little quizzing and stuff," Barnett said. "I'm getting it, but it's definitely a lot. I don't think anyone in here has this defense 100 percent down, because there's so much, the quantity of it. It's high quantity, but also it's very high quality, so we've just got to learn it."

Barnett has had enough of the learning on paper, though. He's definitely anxious to return to the field for the first time since tearing the ACL in his knee last November at Minnesota. He said he woke up Tuesday morning "in a bad funk" because he was coming to the stadium unable to practice once again.

If it were up to him, he'd be back by now, but the medical staff hasn't cleared him, which isn't all that unexpected less than nine months removed from reconstructive surgery. He hasn't been told when he's going to be able to test his knee again, which would be the first step toward getting medical clearance to play.

"I trust they're going to make the best judgment when the time is right, but it's hard," he said. "I want to be out there but I'm not going to rush it if doc says it's not the right thing."

In the meantime, fellow inside linebackers Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop have enjoyed productive starts to training camp. Chillar has taken Barnett's snaps with the No. 1 defense at the "Mack" linebacker spot in the 3-4, while Bishop is a potential sub at both the "Mack" and "Buck" spots.

Barnett was asked if he gets nervous when he hears the coaching staff praising the players who are out there in his place, but the seven-year veteran insisted that's the least of his concerns.

"Am I worried about losing my position? No, no, no," he said. "I'm not worried about anything. I'm worried about what Nick Barnett is going to do when I get on the field, how I'm going to help this team. I know what I can do. I've been here, I've been playing, I know I'm going to put everything out on that field and that's what they want.

"I'm happy they're doing a good job, because that lets me know if I ever go down or anybody ever goes down, we have depth and we won't have a season like last year."

A setback

Third-year defensive end Justin Harrell sat out Tuesday's practices with back spasms, as it appears the back problems that derailed the start of his 2008 season may have resurfaced.

"He's just fighting through it, we're treating him, and it's a little bit of a setback for him," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

That's news no one wanted to hear after Harrell made it through the offseason program healthy for the first time in his career.

Sidelined early on his rookie season in 2007 with a torn bicep sustained in college, Harrell then missed five midseason games with an ankle injury.

Then last year, he developed the back problem during the offseason, missed the first seven games on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, and then missed the season's final three games with back and hip issues.

{sportsad300}Another recurrence of the back problem throws into question how much the former first-round draft pick will be able to contribute this season, with a setback coming less than two weeks into training camp.

"It's frustrating, and it's frustrating to Justin more than anybody else," General Manager Ted Thompson said. "I know it's easy to criticize him. It's not his fault.

"This game is about accountability and durability and all of that, and that has to factor in. Certainly we think a lot of Justin and we think he has a bright future as an NFL player. But at the end of the day you have to be able to line up and do your part, and he's giving it a go."

Injury/participation update

Running back Brandon Jackson returned to the field during the evening practice for the first time since last Monday, Aug. 3. He had missed the past week with a shoulder injury. He ran with a lot of energy and quickness, as his legs likely benefited from the time off. With the team beginning to prepare for some of its early-season opponents, Jackson took a large share of reps as the scout team back.

In addition to Harrell and Barnett, the following players sat out both practices on Tuesday: linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring), Jeremy Thompson (stinger) and Brad Jones (back/PUP), cornerback Pat Lee (back), running back DeShawn Wynn (knee - bone bruise), receivers Ruvell Martin (groin) and Patrick Williams (hamstring), tight end Tory Humphrey (forearm), defensive end Johnny Jolly (ankle), and nose tackle B.J. Raji (unsigned).

McCarthy said Matthews could be out another couple of days. Punter Durant Brooks also did not take any reps with the punt team in the evening practice because of a hip flexor, McCarthy said. That's the same type of injury that bothered him last season with Washington.

The usual one-a-day participants - safety Atari Bigby, center Scott Wells, tackle Chad Clifton and defensive end Cullen Jenkins - all sat out in the morning and practiced in the evening. Nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who got the morning off, also returned in the evening.

Offensive lineman Duke Preston got up slowly a couple of times during the evening practice but appeared to battle through and finish the practice. McCarthy said he got rolled up on during one play, and Preston planned to get treatment during Wednesday's off day and hopefully return to the field on Thursday.

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