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Packers Sticking With Crosby

Tim Masthay and Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers are sticking with Mason Crosby, although that decision has as much to do with their personnel philosophy as it does with their faith in the struggling kicker.

After missing a pair of field-goal attempts during the Packers’ 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Crosby is 17 of 29 (an NFL-worst 58.6 percent) this season and has botched at least one kick in the past eight games. Nevertheless, coach Mike McCarthy remained steadfast in his support of Crosby, saying no change is in the offing.

“Mason Crosby is an accountable man. He needs to perform better,” McCarthy said Monday. “I’m disappointed in the way he performed yesterday. There’s more that goes into it as far as when you evaluate players and everything around each player at their position. So, at the end of the day, Mason will be our kicker and that’s my focus.”

While Crosby was having another rough outing, two other players the team chose to keep around — despite uneven production or injury issues — were delivering for them: Sixth-year wide receiver James Jones and third-year defensive end Mike Neal.

Crosby, a 2007 sixth-round draft pick out of Colorado, signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract extension that included a $3 million signing bonus in July 2011 and responded with the best season of his career last year, making 24 of 28 field-goal attempts.

He has a base salary of $1.65 million this season and has three more years left on his deal, at $2.4 million in 2013, $2.65 million in 2014 and $2.8 million in 2015.

While Crosby has missed at least one kick in each of the Packers’ last eight games, the team is 7-1 during that stretch.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating whenever you’re not making kicks,” Crosby said. “But the biggest thing is that I’m not making the kicks to put this team up by two touchdowns. That was my thing. That was six points there and if we’re up two touchdowns, it’s a different end. But the result is the same. We won the game, just a little different ending.”

The Packers can only hope that Crosby rewards their faith the way Jones and Neal have.

Jones struggled with inconsistent play and dropped passes earlier in his career, but was re-signed to an economical three-year deal before the 2011 season. After catching three touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Jones leads the NFL in TD receptions with 12. He enters this Sunday’s game against Tennessee with a career-best 51 receptions for 622 yards.

Neal, who endured two injury-plagued seasons and then opened this one serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, registered 1½ sacks on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and was praised by outside linebacker Clay Matthews for helping him get his two sacks on stunts. Neal has 3½ sacks this season, second on the team to Matthews (11).

However, it does appear that Crosby’s struggles are affecting McCarthy’s decision-making. The Packers twice went for it on fourth down against the Bears, converting a fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 37-yard line in the second quarter instead of trying a 55-yard field goal and converting a fourth-and-6 from the Bears 26 instead of attempting a 44-yard kick.

The first conversion didn’t lead to points because Crosby missed a 43-yard attempt wide right on a fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 25, while the second conversion led to Jones’ third touchdown, on the opening drive of the second half.

Crosby’s other miss came when McCarthy decided to try a 42-yard kick on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 24, and Crosby clanged it off the left upright.

Asked if sticking with Crosby despite his misses might create an issue with other players, to whom accountability is constantly emphasized by the coaching staff, McCarthy acknowledged that was a possibility.

“Definitely, no one’s happy with the number of kicks that Mason has missed. As we stand here today on who’s going to line up and kick, it’s Mason Crosby. I don’t know how to continue to answer this question. He needs to be accountable for his performance, but as far as what happens between the evaluation of the game or the past games and how he’s performed and how we move forward into the next game, there’s a number of different factors. Mason Crosby is our kicker.”

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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Material may not be redistributed.

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