Bartender one day, NFL punter the next

Flinn thrilled with opportunity to punt for Packers

Of all people, the Packers have turned to a bartender to try to liven up a sobering situation.

No kidding.

A day after it toyed with having kicker Ryan Longwell pull double duty, Green Bay signed free agent Ryan Flinn on Thursday to fill a late-season vacancy at punter.

The addition of Flinn, a first-year player out of Central Florida, coincided with the placement of punter B.J. Sander on injured reserve. Sander sustained a bruised left knee - his kicking leg - when he was hit hard on a blindside block by Baltimore's Ed Reed during a punt return Monday night.

Flinn auditioned for and won the job Thursday morning in a workout that also included veteran Micah Knorr, Gabe Lindstrom and rookie Reggie Hodges, a draft pick by St. Louis who lasted only a month into the season.

"It was kind of an honor that I got picked out of a group like that. Very happy to be here," Flinn said after taking part in practice later in the day.

The right-footed Flinn has been out of football since he was cut by Atlanta after its first preseason game this year. In that contest, played in Tokyo, Flinn averaged an impressive 46 yards in two punts but was subsequently told the team needed a punter who also could handle kickoffs.

Flinn, who stands 6-foot-5, returned to Orlando, Fla., and had been working as a bartender at a couple establishments ever since.

In fact, he missed an initial call placed by the Packers on Wednesday morning because he was sleeping after a late night on the job.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword. Good money, but it kind of takes its toll," Flinn said of bartending. "Sometimes, you can't get up in the morning and work out at the times you want to. It's kind of pointless to work out after five hours of sleep. It's not like anyone was beating down my door at the time."

Flinn left a good first impression in practice with Longwell, who's glad he won't be needed to punt Sunday against Chicago at Lambeau Field.

"He hit the ball really clean. He has really good hands and drops the ball pretty low, which you need to do in Lambeau," Longwell said. "I'm sure he'll be nervous like we all were our first game. But I'm pretty impressed that he came in and handled a pretty crazy day pretty smoothly."

That included meshing nicely with Longwell on the holding end of his kicks. Flinn was a holder in college and has assuaged Longwell's concerns about not having a competent fill-in for Sander in that role.

Rookie quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the other option on holds but his limited experience caused wariness on Longwell's part.

"I showed him how I liked it. The first couple, we adjusted," Longwell said of Flinn. "There's some learning to be done (Friday). But we're pretty close. I'd say it's not as far of a learning curve as it would be if we had to go with Aaron."


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