For the second straight year, Green Bay Packers punter Tim Masthay retained his job by winning a one-on-one competition.
Peter Mortell, the Green Bay native brought in to challenge the former University of Kentucky standout, announced on social media Monday that “my football journey will continue elsewhere,” indicating he was released as the Packers trim their roster to 75 players by Tuesday’s deadline.
Asked about the punting position at his Monday morning news conference, Packers Coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Masthay was “in the driver’s seat. It’s important for him to have a good week of practice.”
As such, Masthay isn’t taking Mortell’s absence for granted.
“I guess there’s two parts to it for me,” Masthay said after Monday’s practice, according to Packers.com.
“One, I don’t feel like I’ve won anything yet. And two, I’m not here to just win a job, I’m not here to survive cut day. I’m here to help the Packers win football games. That’s what I’m interested in doing. That’s what I’m focused on doing.”
The former Murray High School star said there’s still a lot of work to be done before the team’s season opener.
“To me, there’s not even the slightest bit of relief,” he said. “There’s no relief or take a deep breath or anything like that.
“To me, the only change is I got all the reps today, so I got a little extra practice. That’s about it.”
McCarthy said Mortell had been “pushing the envelope” in camp.
“I think Peter Mortell is a young punter that has a lot of growth in front of him,” McCarthy said.
Mortell signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent after a collegiate career at Minnesota. Though he was shaky at times, Mortell proved a worthy competitor for Masthay, who endured his own bouts of inconsistency. There were days when Mortell out-kicked Masthay; there were times when Masthay showed why he’s held the job since 2010.
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook asked his punters to alternate on every two kicks during the three exhibition games. Mortell punted nine times with an average hang of 4.08 seconds. Masthay, who also punted nine times, posted an average hang of 4.37 seconds.
The format was different in practice, and Zook made alterations as training camp progressed. Early on, each player would take three or four consecutive kicks before giving way to the other within the context of the same drill. But last week, prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers, Zook allotted a full day of practice to each punter.
Both players had seven punting periods since camp began Aug. 26. Mortell punted 43 times with an average hang of 4.04 seconds. Masthay punted 46 times with an average hang of 4.43 seconds.
It’s quite possible that hang time was the deciding factor for General Manager Ted Thompson, and if that’s true it would validate Masthay’s effort to improve that part of his game during the offseason. Masthay focused on what he called the “energy transfer” of a punt — in other words the totality of his movements during the action of a punt, not just the swinging of his leg.
“You always want to be able to do it all,” Masthay told Packers.com. “You always want the high hang times with the great distance, with the great direction. It’s hard to bottle that all up on a consistent basis, but that’s what I’m continually working towards.
“I’m very pleased with my hang time, but I’d love for my placement to be a little bit better.”
Last week, on the day of practice dedicated to Masthay’s kicks, he turned in arguably his best performance of training camp. Of his 15 punts that afternoon, 10 of them hung in the air longer than 4.35 seconds. Three were more than 5 seconds.
Masthay’s average hang that day was 4.47 seconds, a mark that crushed his average of 3.98 during last year’s exhibition games when he fended off the challenge of former Alabama punter Cody Mandell.
“I feel good about my footwork, good about my swing, good about my hang time,” Masthay said.
He told Packers.com that he talked to Mortell before Monday’s practice.
“It’s just tough to break in,” Masthay said. “There’s a number of guys who have had tremendous NFL careers, and it took three or four years to make it in.
“It takes a little bit of good fortune, getting the right opportunity at the right time, and seizing that chance. He’s got the talent for it, it’s just a matter of that happening. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, too, so I won’t be surprised if he does make it.”