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Ex-Cat vying to be Packers' punter

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The first live-action situations in the competition between Tim Masthay and Australian Chris Bryan didn't give either punter an advantage.

It only convinced Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy of two things: the Packers have their two most talented punters in the past three years and it's likely going to come down to the end of camp to decide who'll stay and who'll be released.

Both Masthay and Bryan had strong efforts during Saturday night's intrasquad scrimmage, with each getting five attempts and each nailing a long of 62 yards.

"We wanted to create as close as we possibly can to true game atmosphere, put pressure on them," McCarthy said after the scrimmage. "They handled it very well. It's going to be a very good competition. They're both very talented. I have no question that we're so much further ahead than we've been the past two years just with the individual ability at the punting position."

Punting has been a short subject around the franchise ever since the days of Craig Hentrich (1994-97) and Josh Bidwell (2000-03) left. McCarthy has used different punters each of the last three years, including Derrick Frost (2008), Jeremy Kapinos (2008-09) and Jon Ryan (2006-07), whose numbers continue to improve in Seattle.

Masthay kicked for four years at Kentucky and was named to the All-SEC team as a senior. Bryan was kicking too, four seasons in the Australian Football League after being drafted in that league in 2004.

"We really are friends," Masthay said. "And we wish the best for each other. We know that, in the end, it's just going to be one of us. We're friends, and we understand that. We've been pushing each other and making each other better."

On Saturday night, neither gained a significant advantage over the other in the first round of tries in game-like conditions. Bryan's first punt was his longest at 62 yards. He then had 52 and 53 yarders. Masthay's first punt was 48 yards, followed by his 62-yard effort and a 49-yard kick.

"He set the pace real quick," Masthay said of watching Bryan's 62-yarder on his first attempt. "He had a great punt to start it off, and I knew I had to answer it. I was happy to go out there and be able to do it."

In directional kicking, Bryan faired slightly better than Masthay, but only netted a total of seven more yards to finish with a 50.4 yard average compared to Masthay's 47.0. The two are also vying to be the holder for kicker Mason Crosby.

Masthay said even with nearly 50,000 people in attendance, he was most nervous because General Manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy were standing behind them for each kick.

"With Mike and Ted back there, that gets my heart going more a lot of time," Masthay said. "It's good because it makes you really focus all of the time."