Crosby, Masthay must get familiar with different wind patterns
GREEN BAY Mike McCarthy and his assistants have plenty of young players to watch in the Green Bay Packers' preseason game against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.
They'll also be monitoring another relative unknown: The changing wind patterns at Lambeau Field.
In the middle of a major expansion project, Lambeau has sprouted a massive superstructure with a giant video board in the south end zone. McCarthy says kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and special teams coach Shawn Slocum have been monitoring how the construction will reshape the wind and change the kicking game.
"We need to understand the wind," McCarthy said. "With the design (of) the south end zone, it's a significant structure. It potentially will change. I would say it definitely will factor in the southwest with the wind coming through that part of the stadium."
Slocum said the changes might not be dramatic for the Packers (No. 1 in the AP Pro32), but they're worth keeping an eye on.
"At any time in any stadium you can overthink the weather conditions," Slocum said. "The bottom line—we have to kick the football. Having said that, I think it's important to be cognizant of what's changed in Lambeau. I think it will be different and we'll deal with it. Really, it'll be the day of the game, we'll go out there, we'll make decisions on things such as aiming points and kick directions and we'll manage it through that game."
And Slocum said the new structure might actually make things easier on kickers.
"The structure itself is larger, it blocks the wind," Slocum said. "It used to creep over the south end, get in there and stir around and create unique winds. I think it's actually going to help. That's my forecast. Just help the kicker, whoever's kicking the ball. I think it'll be less significant. Now, I can be proven wrong. We'll see."
And while kicking in game conditions is important—it wasn't particularly windy during the Aug. 3 "Family Night" scrimmage—the time Crosby and Masthay spend kicking in the stadium during the week takes on new importance.
"The stadium feels completely different being closed off on that side," Crosby said. "For five years now, I've been used to how it is and learning all the nuances. It wasn't a real windy night the other night. We'll get out there as the conditions change. If there's some windy days, we'll come up to the stadium and hit some balls and see how it's flying. We'll get more comfortable with it, visually and with the wind conditions."
Beyond checking the wind tonight, the Packers will have a close eye on starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse, who returned to practice this week after sitting out with a concussion he sustained during the scrimmage.
Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is not likely to play because he's recovering from a concussion. The Packers also are banged up at running back, and it's not clear whether new arrival Cedric Benson will play tonight.
For Cleveland, rookie starting quarterback Brandon Weeden is expected to play at least the first half.
Weeden, a first-round pick out of Oklahoma State, says he has learned from mistakes after struggling in his first preseason outing.
"Yeah, absolutely," Weeden said. "It's a quick turnaround, but it's been good."
We've had however many practices we've had and we've come together and learned from our mistakes and put together a pretty good week."
Former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, who now is the Browns' offensive coordinator, thinks playing at Lambeau will help the young quarterback's development.
"It will be, not exactly a hostile environment, but plenty of fans making noise and that will be a good test," Childress said. "It's a great place to play, a good chance to get that experience."
Running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, is recovering from recent left knee surgery. Ex-Packer Brandon Jackson will be among the players presumably taking Richardson's place Thursday.
The Browns also are looking for answers on a defense that has been hit hard by injuries.
"I know we are a better defense, a deeper defense, and I believe we are a tougher defense than we were a year ago," defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. "How that translates statistically, I don't have a clue."