Kapinos will get his kicks as new Packers punter
GREEN BAY -- Given how badly Derrick Frost performed this season, the Packers have set the bar pretty low for new punter Jeremy Kapinos, whom the team chose over three other punters Wednesday.
"I want him to punt the ball in the right direction," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, as his 5-7 team prepared for a must-win game against the Houston Texans Sunday at Lambeau Field. "I'm expected to win games. He's expected to punt the ball in the right direction. I'm not trying to be funny."
After Monday's release of Frost, who ranked 26th in both gross (42.1) and net (36.1) average on 48 punts in 12 games, the Packers brought in Kapinos and ex-Pittsburgh Steelers punter Paul Ernster for workouts Tuesday, then worked out two more punters, Durant Brooks and Danny Baugher, on Wednesday after practice.
McCarthy said Kapinos and Ernster punted both inside the Don Hutson Center and outside. McCarthy thought Brooks and Baugher would be limited to punting inside by poor field conditions created by the snow that moved through Northeastern Wisconsin Wednesday.
Not long after Brooks and Baugher's auditions ended, the team signed the left-footed Kapinos.
"When I talk to him, I'm going to tell him exactly what is expected of him," McCarthy said. "We do with everybody that is involved with our football team."
Kapinos, who is 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, punted four years at Penn State, where he averaged 41.8 gross yards in 249 attempts. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award and a third-team all-American but he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
He signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007, but was released before the start of the regular season. He was re-signed to the practice squad and later promoted to the 53-man roster for one game, averaging 41.6 gross yards and 36.4 net yards on five attempts on Dec. 23, 2007 in a game at Tennessee. He landed two of his five punts inside the 20-yard line.
The Packers, who went without a punter during Wednesday's practice, picked Kapinos over Brooks, a sixth-round pick from Georgia Tech who beat out Frost for the Redskins' punting job and averaged 39.6 gross yards (35th) and 32.1 net yards (35th) on 26 punts before his release after six games; and Ernster, who averaged 31.6 gross yards (37th) and 31.3 net yards (37th) on 12 punts for Pittsburgh before being cut in favor of veteran Mitch Berger.
McCarthy said backup quarterback Matt Flynn will take over for Frost as the holder for kicker Mason Crosby, with No. 3 quarterback Brian Brohm and wide receiver Ruvell Martin as alternates.
"The holding, I'm not concerned about that," McCarthy said. "We're very comfortable with Matt there, and I know Mason is also."
Packers general manager Ted Thompson was out of town scouting Tuesday and Wednesday and did not return a message left with his administrative assistant. Presumably, directors of football operations John Schneider and Reggie McKenzie, along with special teams coordinator Mike Stock, helped with the selection of Kapinos, who'll practice with the team Thursday, when it does most of its punt coverage work.
"This is purely a performance issue, and we're looking for the best candidate," McCarthy said.
That's how McCarthy had described the decision to release Frost, who averaged 43.8 gross yards, 32.3 net yards and 3.63 seconds of hang time on four punts during Sunday's loss to Carolina. His first attempt, a 2.96-second line-drive 40-yarder that netted just 28 yards, elicited loud boos from the Lambeau Field crowd. His release was a clear admission by the club that it made a mistake when it cut incumbent punter Jon Ryan Sept. 1 in favor of Frost.
Asked on Monday what the "final straw" with Frost, McCarthy answered, "Clearly a performance issue. We just tried everything that we could and it's unfortunate that it didn't work out. Just the (in)ability to transfer it from the practice field to the playing field. ... It was something we felt factored in some of the outcomes of our games, and we needed to make a change."
The Packers cut Ryan after training camp ended to add Frost, who had been released by Washington on the final cutdown in favor of Brooks. Ryan, now with the Seattle Seahawks, ranks ninth in the NFL in gross punting average (46.7 yards) and 17th in net average (38.2).
Asked whether he regretted cutting Ryan, McCarthy replied, "I don't want to go back. Jon was a true pro, a very talented punter. We had a positive experience with him here."
Asked if he erred in releasing Ryan, Thompson answered, "I'll let you guys (reporters) decide that. I don't speak negatively about our players so I'm not going to now. Derrick was a wonderful punter in practices and pregame drills. It just didn't translate to the game. We anticipated having more consistency at that spot and it just hasn't worked out that way, and that's on me."
Pressed on why he cut Ryan, whom at the time of the move Thompson said "can hit punts like nobody I have ever seen," Thompson said, "It's what I said at the time: We were looking for more consistency out of that position. We thought we'd be able to get that. We have not been able to get that."
Frost, who also had a poor game at New Orleans (33.5 gross yards, 30.8 net yards and 3.54 seconds hang time on four punts), mystified Stock, who said he'd never seen a punter look so good in practice and punt so poorly in games in his 17 years of NFL special-teams coaching. Although thought to have been the driving force behind cutting Ryan and signing Frost, Stock would only say that "the Green Bay Packers made that move."
"I don't want to look back. It's just one of those things where we made the decision and we're living (with) it," Stock said. "The decision was the decision. As it turns out, Frost doesn't fulfill our expectations. It's not like the kid doesn't have talent. Fulfilling the expectations is another thing. And he didn't do it."
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