Crosby answers the critics so far

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Remember when one of the biggest concerns about the Green Bay Packers was their field goal kicker?

Less than a month ago, questions remained about whether Mason Crosby would be back for a seventh season in Green Bay.

Crosby not only emerged from an intense training-camp competition with Giorgio Tavecchio (and Zach Ramirez for three days), but he may have come out of it a better kicker.

Crosby has made all four of his field goals this season, including a 3-for-3 performance in Sunday’s 34-30 loss at Cincinnati.

Not convinced that’s a large enough sample size to have faith in Crosby?

Dating back to last season and including this preseason, Crosby has made his last 16 field goals. He finished the 2012 regular season by making four in a row and went 2-for-2 in the playoffs. In preseason games this summer, he made all six of his attempts.

“Mason’s hitting the ball very well,” Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum said this week during the team’s bye. “I think he’s got great rhythm. I thought his three field goals [on Sunday] were done the right way. He looked good.”

To be sure, it’s hard to forget Crosby’s meltdown during the Packers’ scrimmage on Aug. 3, when he missed five of his eight field goals, and he hasn’t been tested from long distance yet this season. His longest field goal was a 41-yarder against the Bengals. His other kicks so far were from 19, 26 and 28 yards.

Still, there’s reason to believe Crosby has put last season, when he ranked last among NFL kickers with a 63.6 percent conversion rate, behind him.

How did he do it?

“Hard work and professionalism, and I think a strong will,” Slocum said. “That says a lot about the guy.”

Crosby restructured his contract last month, taking a $1.6 million pay cut, but the deal will allow him to earn back all of that money through incentives. At this point, he’s on pace to do just that.