The statistics say Thursday night's punting battle was practically a standoff. The visual evidence, however, suggests Jeremy Kapinos took a big step forward.
In 13 punts replicating various situations, Kapinos averaged 46.5 yards on seven attempts while Durant Brooks averaged 46.0 yards on six punts. The numbers don't tell the story, though. Kapinos hit a 65-yard boomer and followed that with a 50-yard boot. All of his punts had ample hang time.
Brooks, who was held out on Tuesday with a sore hip flexor, hit the only clunker of the evening. With the ball at the 2-yard line in the backed-up drill, he hit a low wobbler that landed at the 37-yard line and was fielded at the 45. He got a mulligan on that one because special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum wasn't happy with the work up front, and Brooks followed with a 53-yarder.
The only area in which Kapinos struggled was from the opponent's 40-yard line. His first punt traveled to only the 20-yard line. Later, he kicked the ball to the 15. In that same area earlier in the week, he hit four touchbacks in 10 attempts.
It was good timing for Kapinos. A source told Packer Report that the team worked out four punters on Wednesday. None were veterans, the source said. Another source familiar with the league's punting situation says he's never seen so many proven veterans on the market.
Defensive end Johnny Jolly, who suffered a significant ankle sprain during the third practice of camp, returned on Thursday night and could suit up for Saturday's preseason opener against Cleveland.
"I'm hopeful Johnny can go," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I watched Johnny all through his individual and I thought he looked very good. We'll see how he responds to practice. (Friday) morning probably will be the big indicator. If Johnny does go, we'll probably be smart with him and he'll probably be in that first group of 10 to 12 plays."
For a change, the injury list isn't too long. Out were cornerback Pat Lee (back), linebackers Clay Matthews III (hamstring), Jeremy Thompson (groin), Nick Barnett (knee; PUP) and Brad Jones (back; PUP), and defensive ends Justin Harrell (back) and B.J. Raji (holdout).
Thompson and Matthews, the would-be combatants to start at right outside linebacker, likely will not play on Saturday, McCarthy said.
Joining Jolly in returning after a long absence was receiver Patrick Williams (hamstring).
— McCarthy said the starters will play 10 to 12 plays vs. the Browns. Two starters who might not play are cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris. They spent their night with the scout team running the Browns' defense.
— Not counting a miss from 42 yards in which Andrew Hartline was flagged for a false start, Mason Crosby went 4-for-4 with makes from 36, 39, 46 and 47 yards. It was another strong performance after a sloppy start to camp.
— During a two-minute drill of mostly backups, Brian Brohm moved the ball from the offense's 35-yard line to the defense's 22 before calling a timeout with 25 seconds remaining. On the next play, Brady Poppinga blew past Jamon Meredith for a sack. On the final play, Brohm threw a beautiful pass to Kole Heckendorf, who was covered tightly by Aaron Kampman. Heckendorf caught the ball inside the 5 but was tackled, and time ran out.
— The defense picked off three passes: Charlie Peprah made a nice catch on a deflection by Desmond Bishop, Nick Collins got an easy one when a pass bounced off either Heckendorf or cornerback Will Blackmon, and Ryan Pickett's deflection dropped into the hands of Jarrett Bush.
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