Notebook: Slocum Laments TD Return

Shawn Slocum talks special teams and Frank Zombo talks about his fine, plus much more from Thursday.

Tim Masthay's disastrous punt on Monday against Chicago had two things working in its favor: It was long (57 yards) and the hang time was good (4.6 seconds).

The problem?

"When Devin Hester's got the ball in his hand with greater than 15 yards to go, he's got a chance to pick where he wants to run," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said on Thursday. "And there's a give and take on hang time vs. distance. An ideal punt at, let's say 45 yards or about a 4.5 hang time, most of those are going to be fair-caught. But when you start hitting it out at 56 or close to 60 yards at that same hang time, there's just the spacing for a talented returner to get started, that's what you really fight to stay away from. It was a good punt in regard to the rotation of the football and the flight and that, but more hang time would have helped us there or right on the sideline or out of bounds."

Slocum, repeating what he said after the game, said the punt should have been out of bounds or at least to the sideline to help the coverage unit. Such a long punt would have been clutch, because the Packers were backed up near their goal line and Masthay could have flipped the field position. But in that instance — and most instances — Slocum would have preferred a 40-yarder with a fair catch.

Overall, Monday's performance was a huge step back after the special teams won the battles against the touted special teams units fielded by the Eagles and Bills.

"It's the same message that I think I expressed to you guys after Game 1 and after Game 2," Slocum said. "Our challenge and the challenge in the NFL is to play consistently on a week-to-week basis. Particularly on special teams, there are a lot of moving parts, especially with personnel that affect who's up and down defensively. You have game plans that affect that, as well. What we have to do is when we move a new person in, that person needs to step in and play at a high level. I think that's the challenge we'll face from that point on."

A fine mess

First the good news for Frank Zombo: The undrafted rookie will make his second consecutive start on Sunday against Detroit. Now, the bad news: He was fined $7,500 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

That's chump change to the other starting outside linebacker, 2009 first-round pick Clay Matthews. To an undrafted rookie making the league minimum $320,000, the fine is more than double his $3,500 signing bonus.

Jokingly asked if he'd pass a collection plate around the locker room, he said: "I'm going to take it on the chin and take it like a man. Coach (Kevin) Greene said he'd help me out, but I don't know if I'm going to hold him to that."

The roughing penalty was one of the biggest of the Packers' franchise-record 18 penalties against the Bears.

"My coaches, I didn't get one bit of negative feedback from that hit whatsoever," he said. "They're real supportive. I'm just being aggressive. I'm being a football player. I'm getting to the quarterback, doing what I'm coached to do. I'm coming off a block, being held, being pushed, it's kind of hard to judge, maybe 3 inches? I hit 3 inches lower, I'm not getting a flag. But I'm going to learn from it, it's a good learning experience and I'm going to go from there."

Packers injury report

Did not participate: LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder), S Nick Collins (knee). Limited participation: CB Sam Shields (calf), LB Brady Poppinga (hamstring). Full participation: T Chad Clifton (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand), LB Brad Jones (knee), S Derrick Martin (ankle), DE Mike Neal (side/rib), S Charlie Peprah (quad), CB Charles Woodson (toe).

Poppinga and Shields were added on Thursday. Shields was injured during Thursday's practice, and McCarthy didn't have an update on its severity. McCarthy was "doubtful" that Chillar would play on Sunday but felt "pretty good" about Collins' chances.

Neal was a full participant in his second consecutive practice and, barring a setback, is on course to make his NFL debut.

"You never know. I feel fine right now, though, a lot better than I did last week," Neal said. "I was able to go through practice today with no setbacks. I'm looking to come out tomorrow, capitalize on the practice and then I'll be out there on Sunday, from what I know."

Lions injury report

Did not participate: RB Jahvid Best (toe), RB Aaron Brown (finger), WR Nate Burleson (ankle), DT Sammie Hill (ankle), LB DeAndre Levy (groin), QB Matthew Stafford (throwing shoulder). Limited participation: DE Cliff Avril (knee/finger), S C.C. Brown (forearm), S Louis Delmas (groin/biceps/calf), DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (back). Full participation: LB Zack Follett (concussion), CB Chris Houston (knee), LB Landon Johnson (neck), G Stephen Peterman (foot).

Four-point stance

— Matthews was named the NFC's defensive player of the month after leading the NFL with six sacks through three games. He is the first Packers linebacker to win the award since Na'il Diggs in December 2002. The Eagles' Michael Vick won the offensive award and the Saints' Courtney Roby won on special teams. Detroit's Best was named offensive rookie of the month.

— Bodog.com sent its weekly Super Bowl odds report. The Packers are 7-1 to win the Super Bowl, a slight decrease from 13-2 last week but better than 11-1 in the preseason. Around the North, Chicago is 18-1, Minnesota is 25-1 and Detroit is 400-1.

— Not that you want your punter known for his tackling ability but Slocum said "not many" punters could have made the touchdown-saving touchdown on Devin Hester or gotten into position to make the tackle on Hester's touchdown: "He can run and he's a good athlete. I really thought he could have made the tackle on the touchdown. He actually overran it."

— Lions coach Jim Schwartz, to his beat writers when asked about Matthews: "For sure we'll have to know where 52 is and have to take him out. I was around his dad in Cleveland in 1993 and I was around his uncle in Tennessee for about three years or so, and you can tell that blood's pumping through his veins. That goes from their grandfather down to their father. If you could put that in some vials, you could sell some of that stuff, because he's very impressive that way. It's really amazing that he was a walk-on in college and didn't start until he was a senior."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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