The Word: Training Camp Day 20

Crosby gains edge over Rayner; Franks and Hodge shine in evening practice

When Dave Rayner and Mason Crosby line up for a 50-yard game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining in some December game, they'll probably remember those grueling back-and-forth slugfests against each other in August.

Both will be kickers this season somewhere in the National Football League. It's up to the Packers to figure out which one will attempt that do-or-die field goal for them.

At this point, Crosby has turned the corner ahead of Rayner.

Thursday night's eight-kick battle consisted of the following distances: 28, 30, 37, 42, 48, 54, 54, and 54. Rayner made 4 of 8 attempts, and was wide right from 30 yards. Crosby was a little more consistent, making 6 of 8, but he missed both of his 54 yard attempts. In Tuesday's practice, both kickers were 7 for 7 from various distances.

Crosby and Rayner have similar leg strength, but Crosby has lacked the consistent marksmanship from 40 yards and in. For example, in the first week of camp Crosby made a 50-yarder only to miss from 30-some. The past two weeks, however, Crosby has shown better accuracy than Rayner.

That 52-yard cannon shot at Pittsburgh (which could've split the uprights from 62), definitely helps the rookie's cause, too. Against Seattle, Mike McCarthy likely will alternate field goal opportunities for the two.

"I hit the ball great," said Crosby about his kick at Pittsburgh. "It was exciting to hit a 52-yarder on my first NFL kick. I'm just going to go out there whenever they need it and take advantage of my shot."

Crosby feels that wave of momentum leading toward a roster spot.

"Every chance I get, I look on improving and tweaking little things," he said. "For the most part I'm feeling good and feeling consistent. I'm hitting the ball consistently and that is my main goal. I wanted to get better as camp goes on and I feel like I'm doing that.

"I feel confident every time I step up to the ball."

McCarthy probably couldn't ask for a better peace of mind over that position.

Here are some other notes from Thursday night's practice:

Offensive Play of the Day
Since returning from a scratched cornea, Bubba Franks has been a different player. He is catching the ball away from his body and outrunning linebackers on a steady basis.

During the evening practice, Franks made his best 11-on-11 play of camp by separating from Spencer Havner 20 yards downfield to make a fingertip catch over his left shoulder from Brett Favre. He looked the ball in, didn't bobble it, and continued an extra 10-15 yards after the catch.

Donald Lee is still the favorite to start at tight end, but Franks could play an important role on this year's team. The coaching staff has used two-tight end sets quite frequently with Lee and Franks. The duo could be pleasant surprises on the weakest position offensively.

What Franks needs more than anything is production in a game to build his self-confidence. Another third down drop like he had at Pittsburgh could be very damaging to his psyche.

Defensive Play of the Day
Quarterbacks Paul Thompson and Ingle Martin created plenty of defensive plays of the day on a string of interceptions as Thursday night's practice ticked past 8:30 p.m., but a pair of goal line tackles for loss make this list.

Still deep on the depth chart, middle linebacker Abdul Hodge helped his case by stuffing Noah Herron before the back crossed the plane.

The next play, defensive tackle Johnny Jolly flew past Adam Stenavich before the guard completely got out of his stance, and instantly wrapped up Corey White for a two-yard loss.

If Jolly doesn't beat out Corey Williams, Colin Cole, or Justin Harrell for the starting DT spot next to Ryan Pickett, he'll serve as a dependable extra man for short yardage situations. For his sizable frame (6-3, 312 lb.), Jolly has explosive quickness.

You can never have enough disruptive defensive linemen (and you don't need to tell Ted Thompson that).

Stock is Rising
Carlyle Holiday sure is putting pressure on Thompson and Co. to keep six wide receivers on the roster this season.

Holiday's recent play was a major factor in Ferguson's pending departure and may force the team to cut back on a roster spot somewhere else. As of now, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Ruvell Martin, Shaun Bodiford, and Holiday will make the team if the Packers kept six receivers. (McCarthy has hinted that Bodiford is the frontrunner at kick returner, which would make him the fifth WR.)

After a week polluted with drops, Holiday is gaining a veteran swagger. His unmatched combination of size and athleticism gives him an obvious advantage in traffic. On Thursday, Holiday caught multiple such jump balls, including a clutch third and 1 catch from Favre during the team's first 11-on-11 segment. Holiday isn't having a Rod Gardner-letdown. He has been making difficult catches in many practices.

Stock is Falling (Has Fell)
It's finally over.

Robert Ferguson did a lot of teasing during his six seasons in Green Bay. From his two touchdown breakout at Philadelphia in the 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff to a 71-yard kickoff return at Indianapolis in 2004, Ferguson always did enough to retain a roster spot in one capacity or another.

But with Green Bay's stockpile of wide receivers and after Thompson's special teams splurge in last spring's draft, the Packers have no need for Ferguson, McCarthy announced after practice.

Great move by the Packers. They were going to release him anyways. But maybe now they'll have a taker in a trade. Some depth and competition at RB or TE would help. Maybe someone will take the bait…even if this Mister Twister is a little damaged.

He Said It
"I'm looking forward to another game situation. We had Family Night here but this will feel more game-like. It's going to be unbelievable. My family is coming. There's a lot of stuff that is exciting about this game. It's just another chance to go out there and do some good stuff."
- Mason Crosby on Saturday's preseason game against Seattle

Packer Report Top Stories