Tim Masthay is in the “driver’s seat” in his quest to become the longest-tenured punter in Green Bay Packers history with the release of rookie Peter Mortell.
“While my football journey will continue elsewhere, I can't begin to describe what these past four months have meant to me,” Mortell said via Instagram. Mortell said via Instagram.
“Every kid who grows up in Wisconsin dreams of putting on the Green and Gold. I'm proud to say I made that dream a reality.”
Masthay’s victory in the competition became apparent in the last week. During an extended punting session at practice, Mortell averaged just 3.97 seconds of hang time, with nine of his 18 punts having less than 4.0 seconds and only one topping 4.50 seconds. The day before, Masthay averaged 4.45 seconds of hang time. Then, during Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, Masthay had his best exhibition of the season. His three punts averaged 43.0 yards and he allowed 0 return yards with an average of 4.50 seconds of hang time. Mortell’s four punts averaged 40.0 yards and he allowed 26 return yards with 3.99 seconds of hang time.
With that, Masthay all but cemented himself to open his seventh season as the team’s punter.
“Whether or not I’m on that 53 is in part going to be based off of what I do on Thursday night,” Masthay said. “As to how much weight it carries, I don’t have a clue, but I know that it matters every time you step on the practice field or more so when you step on the game field. So, I’ll be ready to go and ultra-focused, like I always am. I’m not just here to survive cut day. I want to be a strong asset for this team during the season.”
Mortell, a Green Bay native with lengthy ties to the organization – his grandfather ran the clock at Lambeau Field and his father currently runs the clock, and Mortell handed out stats in the press box while a student and player at Green Bay Notre Dame high school – outkicked Masthay during the first two preseason games.
“Peter did a good job,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Monday’s practice. “I thought Peter Mortell is a young punter that has a lot of growth in front of him. It was a good experience for him. I thought he definitely was making progress and was definitely pushing the envelope there as far as the competition.”
Mortell showed he has the leg to make it in the NFL. What he needs is consistency and seasoning. The consistency was the major problem at practice throughout training camp.
“I think he’s got a chance,” Masthay said. “It’s just tough to break in, and Pete and I have talked at length about this several times. It’s tough to break in. There’s a number of guys who have had tremendous NFL careers who took three or four years to make it in. it takes a little bit of good fortune, getting the right opportunity at the right time, and then seizing that chance and performing well when you get that opportunity. He knows that. We talked about all that. He’s got the talent for it. It’s just a matter of that happening. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, too, so I won’t be surprised if he does make it.”
Now, it’s up to Masthay to step it up. Masthay set the franchise record for net punting average last season and owns the top five spots in that critical category. He hasn’t been great this summer, though, and a poor performance on Thursday at Kansas City could open the door for another challenger.
“It’s important to have a good week of practice and perform in Kansas City, just like everybody,” McCarthy said. “It’s a competition to make your team. It’s really available for all of those guys fighting for spots as you go through each position. Tim, we have great history with here and he’ll just continue to work and get better.”
Total of six released: In other roster moves announced on Monday, the Packers released Mortell, receivers Ed Williams and Jamel Johnson, cornerback Randall Jette, inside linebacker Derrick Mathews and defensive lineman Demetris Anderson. Williams and Johnson were practice-squad holdovers. Anderson, an undrafted rookie who sat out his senior season at UCF due to a knee injury, missed big chunks of camp with an injured ankle.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.