Tim Masthay Is the Packers' Secret Weapon

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIJanuary 1, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Mason Crosby #2 and Tim Masthay #8 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after Crosby kicked a successful 30-yard game winning field goal in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Packers play the Lions this Sunday at Lambeau Field. It has not been shared with us yet, but if Matt Flynn doesn't start he will at least get plenty of playing time.

Flynn will be going up against a formidable Lions defense that Aaron Rodgers could only score 27 points on during his MVP season. There's a good chance Flynn will struggle and might need some help. But where might he find that help? Running back? Good defense?

How about punter Tim Masthay.

Because the Packers offense has been so dominant this season, Masthay hasn't been given many opportunities to show what he has. However, last season the Packers offense wasn't on fire every single night and Masthay really stepped up and became one of the best punters in the league.  

This is the story of how Tim Masthay became, and remains, one of the best and most underrated punters in the game today.

Like any Green Bay fan could tell you, watching the Packers' special teams over the past few years has been an excruciating task.  From horrible kickoff coverage to missed field goals, it’s been common for the fans to look to the current specials teams coach and to call for his head.

With the addition of Randall Cobb and a good year by Mason Crosby, however, the Packers have had a good year on special teams this year. A position where the Packers had consistently experienced a great lack of production since 2008, though, is punter. 

One person that was watching the Packers punting situation very closely over the past few years was a man from Murray, Kentucky. 

He was a three sport star at Murray High School, playing football, basketball and baseball.  Luckily for the Packers, he was a very good punter for the University of Kentucky.

Masthay improved his average yards per punt all four years at Kentucky. In his senior season, he made the First Team All-SEC.  He didn't get drafted, but he signed with the Indianapolis Colts on May 1, 2009.

It didn’t take very long for Masthay to be out of a job when he was waived by the Colts on August 10, 2009.  Not one team felt they could use him and he remained unemployed.

During the 2009 NFL season, was working as a tutor at his old college for $10 an hour.

He worked six days a week doing exercises and keeping in shape.  He participated in tryouts, but there were never any job opportunities. 

Derrick Frost sucked big time
Derrick Frost sucked big timeJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Fortunately for Masthay, the Packers couldn’t wait to get rid of Jeremy Kapinos after the 2009 season, and they signed Masthay to a reserve contract on January 15, 2010. 

Masthay went up against Chris Bryan in the Packers training camp for the starting punter position. Because of Masthay’s smarts, strong leg and performance, he beat out Bryan and was the starting punter for the Packer’s heading into 2010. 

He had finally gotten that call—and he delivered.

He may not have delivered right away, though.  In four of his first six games he had a net yards average of 36 or less.  Many fans will also remember when Masthay delivered a horrible line-drive punt straight to Devin Hester in Week 3 of the 2010 season that was run back for a touchdown. 

It looked like Masthay was not the answer the Packers were searching for and that their punting game seemed destined to be miserable.

But then came Week 8 in New York.

The Packers offense was not getting it done.  They were going against the stifling New York Jets defense, and they were in a hostile environment.

The Packers defense was also completely shutting down Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense. But three field goals on offense was not going to cut it. 

Luckily for Aaron Rodgers and co., Masthay had finally put on the right punting shoes for this game.

Masthay punted eight times for a net yards average of 41.5, his first game averaging over 40 of the season.  He pinned the Jets inside their own 20 five times and he allowed zero return yards.

No surprise, he won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.  Huh, a Packers player winning an award for special teams?

Masthay’s punting game was not a fluke either. 

Over the final nine games of the season, he averaged 39.9 net yards a punt per game (would’ve finished third in the NFL) and landed 20 of his 45 punts inside the 20-yard line.

His season average of 37.6 net yards per punt edged out Jon Ryan’s 2007 season as the best in franchise history since 1969. 

If there was any doubt that the Packers had found their punter, it was all erased in the 2010 playoffs.  In the Wild Card round and in the NFC Championship game, Masthay effectively shut down the top two punt returners in the NFL today to the tune of an average of 8.8 yards per punt return. 

He was especially good in the NFC Championship game when he held Devin Hester to 5.3 yards per punt return and dropped five punts inside the Bears' 20-yard line.

If you want to look for reasons why the Packers won the Super Bowl last season, look no further than Tim Masthay.  This is not to discredit Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews, this is just simply displaying the importance of punting to this Packer team. 

The last time this team had a good punter, they made the NFC Championship game.  It has been a few years, but they finally struck gold and here they are contending for yet another Super Bowl this season.

All that hard work has payed off for Masthay, and he showed the makings of a star in just his rookie season.  He had the opportunity to show Pittsburgh fans why the Packers picked Masthay to replace Kapinos when the two faced off in the Super Bowl, and he really did a good job. 

The Packers, with the added additions of Cobb and Crosby having solid years, finally have advantages in the special teams category. At long last, it’s probably time Ted Thompson can be forgiven for the Derrick Frost fiasco.

Let’s just hope that Thompson doesn’t make the same mistake he made with Masthay.  Masthay is the real deal.


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