A standout at Kentucky, Masthay led the Southeastern Conference and ranked fifth nationally in punting. He wasn't drafted, though, and wound up signing with the Indianapolis Colts. Masthay never had a prayer, with the Colts drafting Pat McAfee.
Masthay was released before the first preseason game and spent the year out of football. Not long after his release from the Colts, Masthay was brought in for a workout in Green Bay, but the Packers decided to stick with Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks. Despite Masthay's immense talent, he had an enormous chink in his armor.
He took … too … long … to … punt … the … ball.
Masthay is getting another chance in Green Bay, having signed shortly after the season ended. He's battling Aussie import Chris Bryan for the right to replace Kapinos, who the Packers declined to re-sign as an exclusive-rights free agent.
"He has made major strides since he was in here for an August workout a year ago," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "He was taking three long steps and he was about 1.5 (seconds) with his hand-to-foot time. He's improved tremendously there. His distance overall (length of his steps) has really improved. That's a very important element of the punting process."
According to Slocum, if the entire punting operation is done in less than 2 seconds or less — "the magic operating time," he called it — then the opponent will have no chance to block the kick, barring an error in protection. The snap should arrive to the punter in 0.75 seconds, which means the punter has less than 1.25 seconds, from the time the ball hits his hands to the moment it hits his foot. And the shorter the steps, the better, since longer steps mean the opponent has a shorter distance to cover to block the punt.
Slocum categorized Masthay's get-off time as "fine," but Masthay knows he must be impeccably consistent.
"Shawn's helped me out a lot on that," Masthay said. "A lot of that is, one, being mindful of it and being mindful of keeping my steps short, and two, just getting a lot of repetitions and a lot of reps. That's what I've done since March and it's helped a lot."
While Slocum and coach Mike McCarthy maintain that Masthay and Bryan battled to a draw during the offseason practices, Masthay appeared to be the relatively clear leader in the practices that were open to reporters. While Bryan's strong suit is his quick get-off times and deft touch on pooch punts, Masthay has routinely showed the consistently bigger leg.
Rather than return home, Masthay said he was staying in Green Bay to work out with strength coach Mark Lovat in hopes of maintaining his strong offseason. Of course, as Slocum and McCarthy have said, the offseason practices will have no bearing on who wins the job. That will be determined mostly on the four-game preseason.
"Since March, we've been working steadily and just trying to improve all the time," Masthay said. "I'm pleased with the body of work up to this point but my mind-set is always to try to improve, try to get better. I'll be constantly working on my footwork, my get-offs, my form in striking the ball — everything that goes into punting."
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