GREEN BAY – Ryan Longwell’s texts to Mason Crosby were short and sweet – much like his advice would be to his fellow Green Bay Packers kicker this week, as Crosby looks to rebound from the worst game of his NFL career.
“Keep your head up,” Longwell wrote in one.
“Rhythm and routine,” read another.
“We all have those days,” Longwell said Thursday in an ESPN Wisconsin interview.
Longwell, who left Green Bay in 2005 as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, only to be surpassed by Crosby 2015, usually watches as many Packers games as he can — even in the Bahamas, where he and his family moved last year when he took a job at a start-up sports academy there. But he was away from the TV last Sunday when Crosby missed field-goal attempts of 41, 42 and 38 yards during the first half of the Packers’ 31-23 loss at Detroit.
After a text from his son, Reece, Longwell tuned in just in time to see Crosby miss a 33-yard extra point and a 56-yard field-goal attempt before making a 41-yarder at the end of the game.
It was a startling performance by Crosby, who despite having a rookie holder (JK Scott) and long-snapper (Hunter Bradley), had made 10 of 11 field-goal attempts coming into the game.
“I knew it was an off day when I saw the PAT. Because it was not his stroke, it was not his approach, it was definitely a careful kind of ‘Don’t miss it, don’t miss it, don’t miss it’ kind of swing,” Longwell said. “Like I said, we’ve all been there, we all understand what goes through your head when it’s, ‘My gosh, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn, how am I going to get through this day?’
“Unfortunately, at Mason’s and my and other guys’ position, you’re exposed before the whole world to see. And that’s just the nature of the beast.”
Longwell, who entered the Packers Hall of Fame in July, said the Packers should breathe easy about Crosby – but also make sure that they don’t burden him this week in advance of Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.
Having seen how Crosby bounced back from a terrible 2012 season (when he made an NFL-worst 63.6 percent of his attempts) with the most accurate season of his career (89.2 percent) the next year – during which he earned back every cent in incentives that he’d given up in a pay cut – Longwell has no doubt Crosby will be fine. Even if he’ll undoubtedly be nervous for his first kick against the Niners.
“Mason has a far better track record, and he’s far better than any of us could wish of being kicking in that place (Lambeau Field),” said Longwell, whose own worst statistical game was a three-miss performance (including one blocked attempt) in Champaign, Ill., in a 2002 regular-season victory over the Chicago Bears.
“If you look at what he did in (the year after) his bad year, coming back and basically signing the contract to bet on himself that next year, that’s all he needs to rely on. That, ‘Hey, man, I’ve done this before, I’ve been through this before, where the only person in this world who can pull through this is – me.’ And that’s kind of the mindset he’s in. He’s done it before, and I anticipate because of how good he is he’ll do it again on Monday night.”
Longwell said that the best thing for Crosby would be to stick to his routine, not overanalyze the misses and not go overboard with kicking in practice. He likened it to going to a driving range and further messing up your golf swing by hitting too many balls.
“The worst thing you can do for a guy like Mason is camp him in a room and watch video and talk about technique after a day like Sunday,” Longwell said. “Because I’m telling you, if you get buried in the technical stuff as Mason, you’re going to end up being a guy who’s thinking about the wrong things.”
Asked if having his fourth holder in four years and a rookie snapper might be an issue, Longwell replied, “It’s not the good days where you need a great snapper and holder, it’s the days when you’re off, the days where you don’t quite have it, the rhythm’s not quite there, everything feels a little rushed. That’s when you need continuity between the snap, the hold and the kick to bail all three of you out and get through that day. To me, that’s where all these changes show up the biggest.
“When you change holders over and over and over again, you can get through the days where Mason is just piping it – which he does most of the time. And you can get through the days where the snap’s not coming back with the laces quite perfect enough. But the days where you’re a little off and those things happen, that’s where I think the changes he’s dealt with show up the most – on those off days like Sunday.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who came over to Crosby on the sideline and put his arm around him during the game, and coach Mike McCarthy have each expressed confidence in Crosby since the game. Rodgers did so again Thursday.
“Mason’s made a ton of great kicks for us over the years, (we’ve had) a ton of fantastic moments with him, and we have a lot of confidence in him. I don’t think you have to treat (this week) any different,” Rodgers said. “What I saw last week was an anomaly. And we have confidence that he’ll bounce back.”
For his part, Crosby said Thursday that he hasn’t changed anything this week. He didn’t obsess over film of the kicks. He didn’t break his routine and kick extra balls Thursday. And there was no emergency session with Dr. Christopher Carr, the team’s sports and performance psychologist with whom he talks regularly.
“It’s things I do every week and I’m going to continue to do because it’s part of my process,” Crosby said Thursday when asked about those conversations.
Instead, he’ll kick during Friday’s practice, remind himself of his past successes and move forward like it’s any other week – even if it’s not.
“Ultimately, I’m staying with that process that’s made me so successful all these years,” Crosby said. “I’ve got to look at last week as just something I couldn’t have dreamt up happening, as far as a game like that. For me, it’s something stinks – not being able to come through for your team in those situations – but I’ve got to move on and take it as one entity, one moment in time that I have to move on from and be ready to go next week.
“I made the last kick there, which is a positive. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field and competing and doing my job.”