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For Mason Crosby amid field-goal struggles, ‘It all starts and ends with me’

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Packers' Mason Crosby kicks a field goal during the second half against the Seahawks on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Content Exchange

GREEN BAY — Mason Crosby didn’t want to come right out and say it, but he might as well have: When it comes to the Green Bay Packers’ field goal operation, the duo of long-snapper Brett Goode and holder/punter Tim Masthay was the best he’s worked with during his 15 seasons.

“Obviously, I love those guys. We won a Super Bowl together,” Crosby said Friday. “I mean, we had some great years together, and those two are two of my really close friends. But … you know how it is.”

How it is right now is the kicking game is struggling. After missing only two field goal attempts over the past two seasons combined — with Crosby, long-snapper Hunter Bradley and holder/punter JK Scott having gotten in sync after some struggles of their own during the 2018 season — the Packers replaced Scott at the end of training camp with punter Corey Bojorquez, and earlier this month, they cut Bradley and replaced him with Steven Wirtel.

The results, both with Bradley doing the snapping and since Wirtel took over, have been wildly inconsistent. Crosby enters Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis having missed a total of seven kicks, including two blocks. For the year, Crosby is 14 of 21 on field goal attempts and 24 of 25 on extra points.

The situation hit rock-bottom at Cincinnati on Oct. 10, when Crosby missed four kicks — 36-, 51- and 40-yard attempts, plus an extra point — before his winning 49-yard walk-off kick with 2 minutes left in overtime.

But Crosby also missed a 42-yarder in last Sunday’s win over Seattle, on a kick where special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton intimated the operation — for once — worked correctly and Crosby, weary from all the inconsistency he’d experienced previously, simply missed the kick or slightly mistimed his approach of the ball.

“It all starts and ends with me,” Crosby said. “I’ve got to make kicks whenever my number’s called and that’s the plan moving forward.”

But, he also admitted, adjusting to the overhauled operation has been difficult.

“There’s just some growing pains sometimes. This has happened in the past,” said Crosby, who did have his struggles in 2012, when he had Goode and Masthay as his snapper and holder. “When I look back at some of the film and some of the things, it’s frustrating. If it wasn’t my job and I wasn’t in the middle of it, you’d almost kind of be like, ‘Man, just everything that could’ve gone wrong in a few of these situations kind of did.’

“Corey came in, (and) we got off to a hot start. We started having some operational issues, and we kind of fell into a tough spot. Corey is working really hard. (But) it takes all of us, and every year, every situation, there’s different challenges that you have to jump through. That was no different when Tim and Brett were here, (or with) Hunter and JK. Obviously, there’s been some unique situations this year, and sometimes you have a little more time to work through during the offseason. But we’re really trying to fast-track and make sure we’re sharp here.”

For his part, coach Matt LaFleur said he hasn’t seen Crosby allow his frustrations to bubble over — “My interactions with him have been phenomenal,” the coach said — and he insisted the failures haven’t shaken his confidence in the kicking unit, either.

“It hasn’t crossed my mind one time that we send him out there, ‘Oh, gosh, I hope he makes it.’ The expectation is that he’s going to come through,” LaFleur said. “It’s not only him. It’s the other 10 guys out there, too. So everybody’s got to be on the same page in terms of their execution. But certainly we don’t have any lack of confidence in that unit.”

And while Drayton’s “Mason Crosby deserves better” proclamation still holds true for the special teams units as a whole, Crosby emphasized it’s his job to make sure he’s communicating to Wirtel and Bojorquez exactly what he wants and, if necessary, find a way to get the ball through the uprights even if they don’t deliver the ideal snap or the perfect ball placement on the hold.

“The misses that we’ve had, it’s been unacceptable. And like I said, it starts with me,” Crosby said. “I’ve got to make sure that I’m looking at the right things and being detailed. We’re here. This is our job. We work every day whether in conversation, mentally, and looking at film and talking it through, or executing and doing it on the field at practice.

“We will get it right because this team deserves that. We have something special here, and we have to make sure we execute at a high level.”

Extra points

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (toe) took part in Friday’s practice on a limited basis and was removed from the injury report, meaning he’s good to go against the Vikings. “I’m confident that he’ll be in a good place on Sunday,” LaFleur said. … As expected, the Packers ruled out left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and running back Aaron Jones (knee). The team also will be without wide receiver/kickoff returner Malik Taylor (abdomen), who was ruled out, and likely wide receiver Allen Lazard, who is doubtful with a shoulder injury after missing his third straight practice. … Although outside linebacker Rashan Gary (elbow) plans to play with a bulky protective brace on his right elbow, he’s still listed as questionable, along with defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion).

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