After 'range of emotions,' Mason Crosby seeking accuracy amid changes

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mason Crosby knew his understated choice of words -- saying he has experienced "a range of emotions" over the past eight days -- didn't quite capture the ups and downs he has felt, both on a personal and professional level.

First, the Green Bay Packers veteran kicker lost his best friend on the team -- and his holder -- for the past six seasons when punter Tim Masthay was dumped in favor of new punter Jake Schum before the preseason finale. Then, after final cuts over the weekend, the Packers brought back veteran long-snapper and Crosby's other football BFF, Brett Goode, the team's snapper for the previous seven seasons.

"Yeah, this past week has been, obviously, a different one," Crosby said with a shrug Tuesday.

But while sorting through his feelings is one of Crosby's challenges, the more important issue is making sure the unrest doesn't adversely affect his on-field performance, which has been excellent the past three seasons.

Following Goode's season-ending knee injury at Oakland last Dec. 20, Crosby worked with long-snapper Rick Lovato, who handled the job for the final two regular-season games, both playoff games, and throughout the offseason and training camp. Now, while certainly familiar with Goode, Crosby admitted there'll be a readjustment period since it has been a while since the two were on the field together.

Adding Schum to the mix further complicates matters. It's hard to appreciate the intricacy of the snap-hold-kick operation until something goes awry at a critical time, like when Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip-shot 27-yard field goal attempt in the playoffs when the laces were pointed toward him in the cold at TCF Bank Stadium. Different long-snappers send the ball back with varying velocities and spin speeds, and different holders have different catch points that impact how much they need to rotate the ball when they put it on the ground.

A holder also must get the ball down at the kicker's preferred angle so he strikes the ball cleanly.

"Obviously, with Brett and Tim over these years, we'd gotten to the point where everything was automatic," Crosby said. "I knew when I was going -- when [Masthay's] hand moved. The rhythm of it felt like second nature. Those are the things we work on [now].

"Seeing Brett's snaps feels familiar there, and it's just bringing Jake into that and making sure our operation is the same every time. I think that's the biggest thing, making sure we make it as consistent and as much the same every time we step on the field."

Crosby, Goode, and Schum will work extensively together on Wednesday, in preparation for this Sunday's regular-season opener at Jacksonville. Crosby has to be careful not to overwork himself while trying to become acclimated to his new operation, so he said Goode and Schum will work snaps together while he watches and looks for differences in the operation that the lay person wouldn't notice.

Crosby's only work with Schum so far has been in last Wednesday's brief practice, in pregame warm-ups before the Packers' loss at Kansas City and on the one extra point attempt the two had together in the game.

"Every kicker has their own style, and Mason's shown me exactly how he likes [the ball]," Schum said. "It seems like we're pretty comfortable with each other so far and it's just going to get better and better."

Crosby certainly hopes so. After a rough 2012, he has been on top of his game the past three seasons, making 84-of-98 (85.7 percent) of his regular-season attempts and connecting on a franchise-record 20 straight postseason field goal attempts, a streak that stretches to 2010.

Crosby likened the upheaval to his second NFL season of 2008, when Goode took over for an injured J.J. Jansen as the snapper just before the regular-season opener and the Packers unexpectedly dumped punter/holder Jon Ryan after final cuts, replacing him with Derrick Frost.

When Frost bombed as the punter and was released, backup quarterback Matt Flynn had to take over as the holder in the final few weeks of the regular season. Crosby made 27-of-34 field goal attempts (79.4 percent) that year.

"It's kind of that same situation, except I worked with Brett for eight years," said Crosby, who signed a four-year, $16.1 million deal to return to the Packers this offseason. "It's something that we just have to adjust to and continue to work on and make sure we're sharp."