CINCINNATI — Dress rehearsals tend to be more fun when friends can attend.
Such was the case Thursday as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 27-13 in a pre-season football game.
Packers multi-tasker Randall Cobb and punter Tim Masthay came through nicely, just up Interstate 75 from where they once played for the University of Kentucky.
Wildcats fans saw Cobb, targeted twice, catch both balls for a total of 23 yards. He returned a kickoff 20 yards and had a 12-yard punt return.
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Masthay punted six times, averaging 48.5 yards.
Both Cats played key roles last season as Green Bay went 15-1 before being upset in the playoffs by the New York Giants.
"That loss, ... it lingers for so many months," Cobb said. "It fuels you when you're working out, and how you use that as motivation to push you forward into the next year."
Masthay was a UK senior in 2008, when Cobb was a freshman.
So the punter knew what kind of teammate he was getting when the Packers selected Cobb in the second round of the 2011 draft.
"I remember jumping off my couch when I saw that we drafted him," Masthay said.
Cobb's primary rookie role came as a return specialist. He ranked second in the NFL with a 27.7-yard average on kickoffs and No. 7 with an 11.3-yard average on punts.
Cobb tied an NFL record by returning a kickoff 108 yards, in his regular-season debut. He also had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown and one TD reception.
With a receiving corps that includes Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver and James Jones, Cobb probably will again see most of his time on special teams.
"I just want to get on the field. Whatever I can do to help this team get to a Super Bowl, that's the biggest thing," Cobb said. "I look at the big picture. I'm going to do everything I can to contribute."
Masthay's route to the NFL came with a detour.
Signed by Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent, he was cut during training camp in 2009.
He didn't get another chance until the Packers called in January 2010. In training camp, he beat out Australian Chris Bryan for the punting job.
"What kept me going? My wife (Amanda) and I thought we were going to give it another go when I got released by Indianapolis, that I was going to keep working," Masthay said. "So once I decided I was going to keep working at it, then I was all in. All I had to do was to make that decision that I was going to keep trying and once I did that, then I wasn't going to slack off."
His 37.6-yard net average in 2010 tied for the best mark by a Packers punter since 1976.
He followed that by setting franchise records for gross (45.6 yards) and net (38.6) averages last season. He punted only 55 times, dropping 23 inside the 20-yard line.
The Packers rewarded him early this month with a four-year contract extension, worth a reported $5.465 million.
Both Cobb and Masthay say they've made strides since their days at UK.
Cobb says he's more comfortable than at this time last year. He's had an off-season to better understand the offense, earn the trust of his teammates and bond with MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"We always talk about our routes, and (Rodgers) comes and gives me advice, and I tell him what I'm seeing as a receiver," Cobb said. "Having a little bit of a quarterback background, I can understand how he's looking at things, too, and just give him my perspective on things."'
Masthay says he's "gotten much better since I've been with the Packers."
"I feel like I had a very good foundation laid for me at UK. I was able to do some good things there. Coach (Rich) Brooks, Coach (Steve) Ortmayer helped me a ton," Masthay said. "Then when I got to Green Bay, learning the NFL game, working with Coach (Shawn) Slocum, working with other guys around the league, having a great snapper like Brett (Goode), those things have helped me. I've been able to continue to improve and that's my goal. I'm in a groove right now, so I really hope I can carry that over into the regular season."
The NFL, in addition to Cats fans, will be watching.