Cundiff finds early groove in bid to replace Longwell
(Published Thursday, August 3, 2006 10:09:50 AM CDT)
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Billy Cundiff gets his first crack Saturday night at a sold-out scrimmage at Lambeau Field to make Green Bay Packers fans forget that Ryan Longwell now kicks for rival Minnesota.
If that's even possible.
"I don't really make it forgetting about Ryan because people in Packerland love the history of the game, they love the guys that came before them," Cundiff said Wednesday. "For me, it's not about erasing the memory of him. I think it's just saying (as an organization), 'Hey, he went somewhere else, but I found a guy that's just as good or better."'
( This is a laugh, Cundiff is nowhere near as good as Longwell is)
Early in training camp, Cundiff has been putting his best foot forward as he vies to become Longwell's replacement. Cundiff, a fifth-year veteran signed in the offseason, connected on all five of his field-goal attempts in practice Wednesday, including a 52-yard boot.
"I feel like I'm kicking my best," said Cundiff, who was with Dallas for most of the last four seasons. Cundiff has had only two misses since camp started Friday.
"Billy's a true pro," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's done a great job in our offseason program. He's really handled everything we've thrown at him. He's been very consistent."
Longwell, the Packers' all-time leading scorer, was close to automatic in his nine years with the team, ranking among the most accurate kickers in league history. Longwell, though, cut short his stay in Green Bay when he signed a five-year, $10 million contract with the Vikings early in free agency in March.
The Packers subsequently signed Cundiff to a nominal one-year contract after they were spurned in their wooing of New England free agent Adam Vinatieri, who signed with Indianapolis.
Cundiff and second-year kicker Dave Rayner, who handled kickoffs for the Colts last season, are battling for the kicking job. Special teams coordinator Mike Stock said Wednesday the two are neck-and-neck with the first game-like situation coming up this weekend.
"It's not do or die, but it's critical," Stock said of the scrimmage. "They need to show well. Not just for themselves but for the sake of themselves and the team. The team needs to see what those guys are all about. And, the fans want to see."
Cundiff is eager to put his kicking to the test again at Lambeau, where he made both of his field-goal attempts in 2004 when the Cowboys were drilled by the Packers.
"You get (the scrimmage), you get two preseason games, all of a sudden you have three games (at home) under your belt, which you don't get anywhere else," Cundiff said.
He acknowledged that building on his near-flawless start in training camp is essential. Cundiff has a strong leg, but accuracy isn't a strong suit. He's connected on only 73.2 percent of field goals in his pro career and was cut twice by Dallas last year, the first time because of a groin injury sustained in the preseason.
Stock pays little attention to Cundiff's wobbly track record.
"The big thing is last year is last year, and it goes with the same ol' tune about whatever happened before doesn't matter now," Stock said. "For him, it's like starting over again. If Billy wins the job, it will be one of those rebirths because he got fired from Dallas last year."
Cundiff admits that his time in Dallas hardened him for the battle he's trying to win with the Packers.
"I went back and counted, and I think it was almost double-digit guys I had to beat out just to stay with the Cowboys (all four years)," he said. "That's something I look forward to."