"I didn't feel like I hit the ball that bad last year," Crosby told Packer Report as the minicamp wrapped up last week. "It was one that I was just off a little bit on some. I'm just really focused on dialing it in. My motto this year is ‘just make kicks.' However it has to be, just put the ball through the uprights. That's where I am right now."
Few kickers in the NFL are as talented as Crosby, but he just hasn't made kicks consistently enough.
As a rookie sixth-round pick in 2007, Crosby beat out incumbent Dave Rayner in training camp and wound up leading the NFL in scoring with 141 points. However, he hit only 79.5 percent of his field goals in 2007, 79.4 percent in 2008 and a career-worst 75.0 percent in 2009.
Crosby's career mark is 78.0 percent. For perspective, New England's Stephen Gostkowski ranked smack-dab in the middle of the NFL field-goal stats last season with 83.9 percent accuracy.
Despite being far below average in terms of accuracy in his career, Crosby again enters training camp without a competitor to push him for the job. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said Crosby was kicking the ball better than ever during the offseason workouts.
"Mason's been hitting the ball very well," Slocum said. "He has helped himself so much in the offseason program in terms of his core strength. His kickoffs are outstanding and the ball is jumping off his foot. From a field-goal standpoint, I'm seeing more of a straight-line flight of the ball overall. I'm pleased with where he is."
So is Crosby, who outlined the goals of his offseason training regimen.
"I've been working on balance and stability stuff," Crosby said. "It really helps me in what I do. I've been really focused on isolating the muscles that I need to use for kicking. It's been good. I was here all offseason and got to do a little one-on-one stuff with our strength coaches. Just kind of talking through those things that are going to help me become the best kicker I can be. I go in there and work out hard all the time, but it's like now, I'm going into my fourth season, I'm really focusing on isolating those muscles that I need to kick. The bulking up isn't going to help me. I need those fast, quick-twitch muscles."
Crosby said he's already noticing improved power. Power, however, never has been Crosby's issue. It's the accuracy. For his career, he has made just 66.7 percent of his field-goal attempts from 40 to 49 yards. That includes 4-for-7 (57.1 percent) last year, which ranked a dreadful 26th in the NFL.
The Packers need better if they have designs on reaching the Super Bowl. Teams just can't give up scoring opportunities. Crosby needs better, too, as he enters the final year of his contract. With a big year, he'll be a highly sought-after free agent. If not, he'll be fighting for his career in 2011.
To that end, while most of the players have scattered to their homes or colleges, you can see Crosby's vehicle at Lambeau Field most days.
"This is a really important year for me and this team," he said. "I'm going to focus in and be ready for camp and prepare for this season. I've done a really good job building up this offseason and taking my time with my kicking and my reps, and I'll start firing it up and be ready for camp."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.