The Packers general manager today made a surprising move by releasing punter Jon Ryan in favor of free agent Derrick Frost. To say the move caught many off-guard is an understatement, especially kicker Mason Crosby.
"The whole operation is different now," said Crosby, who was very positive while putting his best spin on the transaction. "I don't know if that's better or worse. It's a clean slate. We're starting new, but the guys are going to do fine."
Packers fans can only hope so. With less than a week remaining before their first regular season game, Green Bay has a new punter, holder and long snapper that will have to gel with the rest of the team ASAP. The Packers had to seek out long snapper Brett Goode to replace J.J. Jansen, who injured his knee in the preseason finale and will spend the rest of the season on injured reserve. Thompson sent linebacker Abdul Hodge packing for Goode. Releasing a player for a long snapper was expected, though, releasing the hard-hitting Hodge was surprising as well. But to release Ryan, who had a better punting average this preseason and last year than Frost is puzzling.
"We're trying to get better," Thompson told the media this afternoon.
OK, but that's difficult to believe. Obtaining a punter who has a worse average than the punter on board? Those who have put their trust in Ted in recent years, including yours truly, will really be tested by this move. Sure, Ryan struggled in the NFC Championship game in sub-zero conditions and he shanked a few at the start of this preseason, but it sure seemed like he was in a groove in the last two preseason games and on track for a good season.
Ryan averaged 52.2 yards on six punts with a 42.0 net against the Tennessee Titans last Thursday. He averaged 49.7 yards, including a 72-yarder, against the Broncos on Aug. 22.
"I think consistency might have been the overriding factor," said Thompson.
If Frost shanks a punt, the boos from the Lambeau Field crowd may not necessarily be aimed at him.
Frost also is expected to be the holder for Crosby on place-kicks. So that's going to have to go smoothly, too, or Thompson will hear about it. Crosby said he developed a trust with Ryan over the past year but will have to develop a new trust with Frost and Goode double-time.
"The snap was on today," Crosby said. "(Goode) was putting it on the spot and the ball was placed right. That's all I need. I need to make sure it's there so I can do my job. You can't overthink it. I just have to take it as it comes."
Again, all Packers fans can do is trust that Thompson and his staff feel Frost can be more of a complete punter than Ryan. They didn't just pick his name out of a hat and call him to come and punt. They no doubt did their homework, but his stats compared to Ryan's don't add up.
"We do like his consistency," Thompson said. "He has got very good mechanics, nice hands, a good athlete and we think he is a pretty solid punter."
Time will tell, but for now many are scratching their heads. The kicking situation appeared to be a strength just a few days ago. Now it is a question mark.
Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.