Packers will miss Edinger

At kicker, just like at quarterback, the Packers have the luxury of watching a proven veteran pile up record numbers and rise to the top of his class while many other teams flounder around looking for help.

Count the rival Chicago Bears in the latter category. After a 2004 season which was admittedly the worst Paul Edinger's career, the Bears axed the sixth-year veteran over the weekend. That means the Packers will encounter a new face when they take on Chicago this season. The Bears have decided to take a new direction with Doug Brien, perhaps best known for his recent post-season disappointments with the New York Jets.

Brien signed with Chicago two weeks ago, though Edinger had asked for his release or trade prior to Brien's signing. A quick check of Edinger's career stats shows that the Packers may miss him. Despite a career which saw him become one of four players in Bears' history to score 100 points in a season, Edinger came up empty several times vs. the Packers. In 10 meetings, Edinger had only one stellar game to his credit.

Last season Edinger scored a mere five points against the Pack -- all PATs. In the first meeting of '04, a surprising Bears' win at Lambeau, Edinger missed from 47 yards in his only field goal attempt.

His best career game vs. Green Bay was one the rest of the Bears would probably rather forget. Edinger went 4-4 on field goals of 37, 47, 38 and 31 yards on Nov. 11, 2001. The kicker even spotted his team a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, but otherwise it was bad news for the Bears. Edinger's quartet of field goals accounted for all Chicago scoring as Green Bay prevailed 20-12 in its eighth-consecutive win at Soldier Field.

Edinger's debut against the Packers came on Oct. 1, 2000. The Michigan State product connected on field goals of 19 and 47 yards in his first visit to Lambeau Field. A couple of months later, Edinger also gave the Bears a pair of treys, but this time the rookie provided the entire Chicago attack in the Packers' 28-6 payback win in a Sunday Night ESPN game.

Those were the highlights; the lowlights include two separate streaks of three games without a field goal and a miss from chip-shot range. Then last season, Edinger was miserable outdoors, on grass and on the road. In the NFC North, those three categories add up to just one Chicago opponent -- the Packers.

Enter Brien, who last year was at his best on grass, outdoors, and on the road.

The Packers have never faced Brien, who was unceremoniously dumped in April after the Jets drafted a kicker. The 12th-year veteran has served a stint in the North division, but a six-game assignment with Minnesota in 2002 didn't include either Packer-Vikings matchup. An even shorter stay with Tampa Bay when the Bucs and Packers were still Central rivals didn't include a clash with the Pack, either. So the Packers stand to face a fresh foe, and Brien is looking for a fresh start after finishing his New York career with two misses (from 47 and 43 yards in the final 1:58 of regulation) in devastating overtime playoff loss at Pittsburgh last January.

If Brien wins the job, maybe he will get a chance to reminisce with Longwell, who happened to be Brien's successor at Cal. Likewise, they both went first to the nearby 49ers after leaving Berkeley. That's about all they have in common these days, however. While Longwell has happily stayed in one place ever since, Brien is in search of his sixth NFL home.

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