After an impressive debut for punter Jacob Schum in the Green Bay Packers’ preseason finale, the attention this week is on his secondary, but no less important, role.
The release of incumbent punter Tim Masthay also means the Packers will have a new holder for their field goal unit for the first time in six seasons. Schum had only one chance to hold in game action last week at Kansas City (on an extra point) but put in his first full week of practice with kicker Mason Crosby. The Packers open the season at Jacksonville on Sunday.
On the surface, everything sounds business-as-usual for the Packers’ field-goal operation team.
“You don’t want to think about things too much or overkick or anything like that,” said Schum, who punted in 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. “I’ll get plenty of holding reps and (Mason) will get plenty of kicking reps and it’s just kind of a quality over quantity thing. You just don’t want to overthink things too much. Just do what you do. I have my routine and it’s about feeling comfortable.”
The Packers claimed Schum off waivers on Aug. 30, the same day they released Masthay and one day before cutting rookie free agent punter Peter Mortell. Four days later, they released long snapper Rick Lovato before re-signing Brett Goode. After tearing his ACL in a Dec. 20 game at Oakland, Goode went unsigned this offseason before being picked up Sept. 5. He spent the first eight seasons of his career in Green Bay.
The return of Goode capped off a “wild week,” in Crosby’s words, for a specialists unit that had the luxury of familiarity for the past six years. Schum’s arrival means Crosby will have to adapt quickly to a new holder. Getting the rhythm and timing down with the entire kick operation team will be the ongoing process.
“There’s small things that I notice now with my career – 10 years being in the NFL – it’s like every little detail I just try to hone in,” said Crosby, who missed just three of a combined 64 extra point and field goal attempts last season (one was blocked). “And so it’s how quick does Jake catch the ball and get it down? What does it look like? All those little things. I continue to watch and learn and pick up information. Ultimately, we’ve got to be ready by game time on Sunday.”
Crosby has noted Schum’s calm demeanor this week and his detail-oriented nature. After all, Schum may be just a second-year punter in the league but has held for so many different kickers dating back to high school that the skill is “second nature now.” His limited work thus far with Crosby has been almost as seamless.
“He’s been just kind of showing me what he likes for the lean of the ball and it seems like he’s pretty comfortable with how quick I get the ball down,” said Schum. “He hasn’t said much about it. We’re only going to build upon it. I feel like he’s happy so far. I just ask him to let me know if there’s anything he wants me to tweak but I feel like we’re going to be pretty successful this year. We have a great operation. Brett’s a great snapper. And Mason’s been doing it for a long time as well. So, it’s really cool to be welcomed by both these guys and work with them.”
Schum never punted more than seven times in any game in 2015 for the Buccaneers. He punted eight times last week in Kansas City averaging 45.5 yards per attempt (41.3 net) while showing off impressive hang time. Former Jacksonville punter Bryan Anger beat out Schum for the punting job in Tampa this training camp.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org