Sidelines: Cool, calm kicker a little nervous

The element of surprise is an exciting weapon in the game of professional football - unless you find yourself on the wrong end of the surprise. That's the situation facing kicker Ryan Longwell as we approach the 2005 Packer training camp. The big mystery for Longwell thus far is who will claim the job as his holder for field goals and extra points. So far, nobody's been able to step up and do the job consistently well and that has Number 8 worried.

"It's one of those things where, to have a successful field goal, you need a great snapper which we have (Rob Davis), you need good protection which we have, you need a decent kicker which I think we have, and you need the hold to be absolutely perfect," Longwell explained. "That's what we're fighting for right now. We lost Doug (Pederson) to retirement and we lost (Bryan) Barker because he's just not here. We don't have a holder that has done it in a game before. There's not that experience factor where we can just transition to a guy. We're actually teaching all these guys how to do it, which makes it tough."

One way or another, the Packers have got to find a guy that can put Longwell back into his comfort zone. Ever since he arrived on the Green Bay scene in 1997, where the "experts" figured he would just be a camp leg to give rookie Brett Conway a breather every now and then, Longwell has been money in the bank. In 2004, his eighth season with the Green and Gold, Longwell nailed four game-winning kicks, giving him nine as a pro. He is the team's all-time leading scorer (964 career points) and stands just 36 points shy of becoming the first player in Green Bay history to score 1,000 points.

To the casual observer, holding for the kicker might not seem like that big of a deal. But looks can be very deceiving. "The biggest problem is where we kick," said Longwell. "In Lambeau Field, the winds are swirling so bad that you've got to have a way to cut through the wind. The way that I do that, and have had success, is the way I have the ball held for me. It's got to be the same every single time, no matter if it's a point after touchdown, a 50-yard field goal or a game-winner. I have to know that if the wind is blowing hard right to left then I need to aim it outside the uprights to play the wind. I have to know it's going to start there. The only way it can start there is if the hold is perfect. When the old is off by a quarter of an inch, an eighth of an inch, the wrong lean or off the spot that much, I not going to hit it as solidly. It won't start where I'm aiming which means it won't have the same power and the wind can do whatever it wants with it."

In seasons past, Doug Pederson provided Longwell's comfort zone. Heck, with Favre entrenched at quarterback all these years, holding for Longwell was virtually all the action Pederson saw. He did his task extremely well before injuries finally took their toll and forced him to retire last season.

Now it's up to the coaching staff to find the right guy to take Pederson's place. Will they find their man on their current roster? Or will they have to bring in an outsider whose resume includes the words "Solid veteran who can also hold for kicks" on his resume?

Stay tuned.

Tom Andrews

Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. He will be contributing columns for

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