When the Packers acquired Jeremy Kapinos late last season, a poor punting unit at least found some hope. Playing in the final four contests after Derrick Frost was released, Kapinos put seven of his 17 punts inside the 20-yard line and had only one touchback. His long punt of 55 yards came in the season finale against Detroit, when the game-time temperature was just 22 degrees.
The Penn State product returns this offseason competing with Durant Brooks, a second-year pro from Georgia Tech with impressive collegiate credentials, and Adam Graessle, a rookie out of Pittsburgh who appears to be the long shot after two years out of the game. Here is a conversation Kapinos had with Packer Report on Wednesday.
Packer Report: I know it's early yet, but how are the (OTA) practices going?
Kapinos: "Practice is going great. I feel really confident in the way I've been performing. I've been doing what I need to do to show my capabilities on this team. I've been very consistent and am progressing to the point that I want to be building up towards training camp and the season. I feel really good about how I'm striking the ball. There's competition out there, but I feel pretty confident in what I've seen out of myself."
What's it going to take to win the job?
"I think the Packers are looking for a steady punter, a consistent guy. Big legs are always sexy, but in terms of being the type of punter you want to be in the NFL, a guy like Jeff Feagles is someone I look towards, a guy like Tom Tupa, Matt Turk, all those guys have been steady throughout the years. I think it's just going to take a guy who can manage a game well — kick the ball long, kick the ball short — and just sort of improve upon what I did last season."
Because you were here last year, even for just the last month of the season, does that give you any type of advantage over the other guys?
"You can take how I performed last year and make any assumptions. I thought I did well. Over 40 percent of my punts were inside the 20. You take away a few of those pooch punts, you take away all of them, and let's say I kick seven more touchbacks, and I've got over a 43-yard average. I thought I did well given the time of year I came in, the weather, and the situation. I think overall it's just going to take consistency into June, July, August and throughout the whole year. It's no good kicking a 60-yard punt if the next one is 30. I'm kind of in my own little bubble right now, just going about my business. I'm not necessarily punting against those two other guys, I'm punting against myself."
You mentioned kicking in cold weather. A lot of punters that come to Green Bay talk about that. Because it's usually only a few games a year, can that be overrated?
"No, I don't think it is. It's no secret what Green Bay's weather is. I punted in one game last year above 60 degrees and I had above a 43-yard net average. So, the balls aren't going to fly as well as they do in warm weather. You just need to pay a lot more attention to hanging on to the ball, things like that. I don't think it's overrated. Minus-10 degrees is minus-10 degrees. You can only overcome that by hitting solid balls. You can't warm the balls up 10 seconds before you kick. It is only a few games, but it is a big deal. Warm-weather punters' averages are going to be better and most cold-weather teams have domes, so it does affect how your ball flies. And your body as a whole, it takes longer to warm up. It's tough."
Are you working on anything technique-wise right now?
"I feel confident in my technique. I don't think it needs a whole lot of work. My get-off times are 1.25 (seconds) or 1.2, which is extraordinarily fast. We strive to get the whole operation off in 1.95, so I'm right where I need to be there. The only thing I need to work on is just being the same kind of punter every day. When they sit upstairs and they talk about who the punter's going to be, they want to be able to predict the output. They don't want a guy who's on one day and off the next. Any trouble I get into is that I tend to lull people to sleep. People always want to see that ball fly way up in the air, but it's not going to be the same punt every time. I keep going back to Jeff Feagles, but that's a guy who's been around for over 20 years with the same type of punt every time. I think I have to show that."
Do you know Jeff Feagles at all?
"No, I don't know him but I enjoy watching him. You try to compare yourself to other punters I believe. You know, (the Raiders) Shane Lechler is going to go down as one of the greatest punters ever. There are a lot of guys with big legs, but at the same time, you look at the two teams in the Super Bowl last year, look at their punters' averages. (The Cardinals') Ben Graham, I know him, he puts it inside the 20. … Chris Gardocki was a guy who never had eye-popping numbers, but his teams won with him. So, I can try to punt it as far as I can and try to get my average up, but I'm more interested in managing the game and being a full punter. You've got to look for guys that fit your mold."
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org