Heading into camp, the Bears are set with starting specialists long snapper Patrick Mannelly, punter and holder Brad Maynard, and kicker Robbie Gould. As special teams coordinator Dave Toub recently attested, “I’m very fortunate. We’re going into our seventh season here, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have Maynard and Mannelly the whole time and Robbie for the majority of it. They work very well together and they’re good leaders in our room, which is real important.” Punter Richmond McGee is on the roster to serve as a camp leg and to allow Maynard to ease back into things following off-season hip surgery.
No direction is the focus of the Lions’ kicking game in camp. Directional kicking hurt Nick Harris’ punting numbers and Jason Hanson’s kickoff numbers last year. New special teams coordinator Danny Crossman will allegedly minimize the directional stuff. As head coach Jim Schwartz noted, “Jason's always been such a good kickoff guy. And then we've tweaked our kickoff a little bit; probably do a little less directional and just let him hammer the ball a little bit more." To ease the workload in camp, rookie kicker Aaron Pettrey was signed and is still on the roster. The Lions had briefly claimed kicker Justin Medlock off waivers, just long enough to thwart his return to Toronto. Don Muhlbach remains the long snapper.
Green Bay Packers
After missing a fair number of kicks last year, some fans and media feel that Mason Crosby should have competition for the kicking job this year; however the Packers’ coaches do not. Crosby enters camp as the only kicker on the roster. Brett Goode is the only long snapper on the roster, although nobody is questioning that. The specialist competition to watch during August is for the punting job. The contenders are Chris Bryan, former Australian Rules Football player, and Tim Masthay, who was in the Colts training camp last year. In addition to punting, they’re also working on holding on kicks, which could factor into the final decision. After OTAs, coach Mike McCarthy noted, "I would say it is still a dead heat. Frankly, I want to see both Tim and Chris punt in games…. I definitely like the talent level of both the punters and we'll definitely go into training camp and let these guys slug it out."
The Vikings enter training camp with four specialists on the roster. The question is whether all four, or just three, will continue into the regular season. Long snapper Cullen Loeffler and punter Chris Kluwe don’t need to sweat it. Nor does kicker Ryan Longwell, although he may begrudgingly have to surrender one of his job duties - kickoffs. Free agent addition Rhys Lloyd will have to show enough during camp and preseason to convince the Vikings to keep him employed as a kickoff specialist. He recently noted, "It's time to get back in a rhythm. I'm not coming in and trying to prove anything in camp by knocking every kick through the end zone. That's what the games are for. I'm just trying to get prepared for the games."
This post sponsored by Footballguys.com