GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For nearly eight years, no one gave it a second thought when the Green Bay Packers lined up for a punt, field goal or extra point. If nothing else, Brett Goode was going to put the snap right on the money.
But last year in Week 16, the Packers played their first game since 2008 with someone else as their long-snapper after Goode sustained a knee injury Dec. 20 against the Raiders.
There were no disasters with Rick Lovato, a rookie who was working in a New Jersey sandwich shop when the Packers called to sign him, and at this point the Packers are prepared to go into training camp with Lovato as their guy.
The long-snapping position is one of several questions on special teams as training camp begins. About the only spot that’s settled is kicker -- Mason Crosby signed a four-year, $16.1 million deal this offseason.
Returning players: Crosby, Lovato, P Tim Masthay.
Gone from last season: Goode.
New this season: P Peter Mortell.
Position coach: Ron Zook (second season).
Biggest issue: The timing of Goode’s torn ACL couldn’t have been worse for him. He was in the final year of his contract, and who’s going to re-sign a player -- especially a snapper -- who tore his ACL in Week 15? Goode has spent the offseason rehabbing and would like to return to the Packers, but at this point he remains unsigned. Until his injury, Goode snapped to Masthay, who has held for Crosby in every game dating back to the start of the 2010 season. Now, it’s possible two of the three members of the place-kicking operation could be different in Week 1 this year.
Second-biggest issue: Masthay will have to fight off punting competition for the second straight summer. He beat out Cody Mandell last year, and even though Masthay set the franchise record for net punting average in a season last year (40.2 yards, breaking his own record of 39.0 from 2013), some of the credit for that should go to Zook’s scheme and his coverage teams. Masthay struggled in the playoff loss at Arizona, where his net average was just 32.8 yards indoors. Perhaps that’s what prompted the Packers to sign Mortell, a Green Bay native.
Player to watch: Given how deep the Packers are at receiver, the best chance for rookie Trevor Davis to get on the field might be as a kick returner. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns at Cal and had a career average of 24.7 yards on 45 returns. “We can’t coach 4.3 -- 4.3 is 4.3, and 4.3 is fast,” Zook said this offseason of Davis’ time in the 40-yard dash. “When you get out there, will he run through the smoke? There’s no reason to think that he won’t do that. He’s been impressive, watching what he’s done, not only as a returner. We’ve really worked him as a gunner on the punt team and as a corner holding up and the kickoff team covering. I’ve been very pleased with what we’ve seen in the shorts. There’s no reason for me to believe he’s not going to be a guy who’s not going to contribute more than just as a returner.”
Part 3: Receivers -- Packers might have to consider keeping seven
Part 5: Offensive line -- Free agency could break up line after this season
Part 6: Defensive line -- B.J. Raji’s hiatus forced Packers to change plans
Part 7: Linebackers -- Clay Matthews’ return to outside linebacker still leaves questions inside