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Packers' kicking battle moves on without Tavecchio

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By Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 27, 2013

GREEN BAY--The Green Bay Packers kicking competition is down to incumbent Mason Crosby vs. long shot Zach Ramirez.

Unless, that is, both of them screw up over the next two days.

On Monday morning the Packers informed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who for the past five months had been Crosby's competition, that he was being released. However, they told him to keep his phone line open.

“I had a chance to visit with Giorgio this morning and I told him in the meeting, he's still part of the competition,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We're at that point where we need to cut to 75 (at 3 p.m. Tuesday).

“Obviously, we'll take the final cut all the way down to tomorrow. The final cut down is just not clear to us. The kicking competition is not over. We feel like we have a very good handle on where Giorgio is and what he's capable of, his performance. There is a case, a scenario, we may bring him back.”

That scenario would be that when the two kickers hit the practice field Tuesday and then Arrowhead Stadium Thursday night, they both lay an egg. It would appear to be Crosby's job to lose, but given he has had three bad patches this summer, Ramirez's foot is in the door.

“This thing, we're hoping to resolve it sooner than later,” McCarthy said. “It's important for the remaining two kickers to take advantage of their opportunity tomorrow and in the game against Kansas City.”

Special teams coach Shawn Slocum said he wasn't sure what format he would use for field goal competition in practice Tuesday, but he said he's cognizant of not wearing either one out, especially after their 11-kick extravaganza Monday.

Slocum was asked what would happen if Ramirez, who hit 10 of 11 in the contest and has an extremely strong leg, kicked flawlessly in practice and the game. How do the Packers measure what kind of poise the undrafted rookie would have in front of 70,000 people at Candlestick Park on Sept. 8?

“I don't know. We'll have to sit down and talk through it,” Slocum said. “We'll take all the information we can obtain between now and the time to make a decision and go from there.”

Even though he played at Portland State, Ramirez said he kicked in front of huge crowds at Arizona State, Washingon State, Oregon and Texas Christian. The mild-mannered 23-year-old has already had the pressure of performing in a tryout in front of Packers scouts and then taking part in an intense field goal competition, all in the same day.

For Ramirez, it's just another opportunity. He admitted he was a little sore after all the kicking he did Monday, but he said not kicking Monday would help him be ready for the competition that remains.

“I felt like I performed well enough on the first day,” Ramirez said. “I have to do it again and hopefully stay for the game on Thursday.”

Tavecchio, who hit 86.4 percent of his field goal attempts this summer compared with Crosby's 80 percent, is eligible to be claimed off waivers until Tuesday. If he isn't claimed, he becomes a free agent and can sign anywhere.

The teams with unsettled kicking positions who may consider adding Tavecchio are the New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Cleveland. The Cardinals, Browns and Buccaneers are probably the most desperate but also might be willing to see if Crosby winds up on the market.

Tavecchio said he was really hoping he would land with the Packers but was ready for whatever was in front of him.

“I'm very appreciative of him keeping me in mind,” said Tavecchio, who flew back to his home in Moraga, Calif. “But that is out of my control. Of course, I'd love to go back to Green Bay. I'd love to go back and have a chance to kick for them in the regular season and be part of that family that has taken me in these last four, five months.

“But it's out of my control what they're thinking. I know I'm going to keep training for the time being. If the time comes and the opportunity presents itself, I would be more than happy to be a Packer.”

Slocum said he felt he had a good feel for Tavecchio and was not put off by the fact his leg isn't as strong as the other two.

“I thought he continued to get better, he continued to hit the ball with more power the whole time he was here,” Slocum said. “When he first started he was hitting his kickoffs right to the goal line, and he continued to work on his efficiency.

“Mason's got a very powerful leg. Ramirez, it looks like his leg is really strong; those guys stand out. But I think Giorgio has plenty of leg to kick field goals in this league.”

Time will tell whether it is with the Packers.

Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.



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