Kicker in search of holder

The unflappable Ryan Longwell is out of his comfort zone. The Green Bay Packers kicker needs a new holder for field goals and extra points, but the candidates are thin with experience.

Longwell used the team's post-draft mini-camp to audition possible replacements. Quarterback Doug Pederson and punter Bryan Barker are no longer in the 2005 picture with the Packers.

"We're really behind the eight-ball," Longwell said. "We're in a tough situation. We do not have the luxury of experience that we've had in the past."

Longwell, entering his 10th season and the final year of his contract, kicked field goals with Craig Nall and Aaron Rodgers as holders in the mini-camp. Both backup quarterbacks are in competition for the backup spot behind Brett Favre this season. The backup quarterback likely will be the holder for Longwell since he will be activated on the 45-man game day roster. The No. 3 quarterback on game days can only play in the first three quarters if the starter and backup are injured.

The only experience Nall and Rodgers have as holders is from practices in college.

In Nall's final season at Louisiana State in 2000, he was minding his business as the backup holder during pre-game warm-ups at Florida that season when kicker John Corbello kicked him in the right thumb, fracturing it in two places.

The next time Nall held was in 2002 for the Packers, but never in a game and only sporadically in practice.

Rodgers never held in games in two seasons at the University of California, but he worked on it in practice. He took a few snaps from long snapper Rob Davis during the mini-camp, then held on some field goal attempts for Longwell.

Longwell kicked most of his attempts from about 43 yards in practice with holds by Nall and Rodgers. The misses were attributed to less-than-desirable holds, Longwell said.

"The holds weren't there every time, and that's what happens," Longwell said. "The ball comes out low or left or squirrelly."

Barker, according to Longwell, "single-handedly won us two games" last year with exceptional holds on last-second field goals that beat Houston and Detroit. Pederson always drew rave reviews from Longwell and the coaches during his years of service.

Most teams use their punter to hold but the punting situation in Green Bay is uncertain. B.J. Sander is punting in NFL Europe. The free agents are Bryce Benekos, who was a superb holder at Texas-El Paso, and Brooks Barnard, who was with the Chicago Bears in training camp last year.

Sander, who plays for the Hamburg Sea Devils, is holding in games. Longwell has watched tape of him and says he is improved.

"I'm reluctant to go with the punting thing because you just don't know how it's going to pan out," Longwell said. "If it's B.J. and he struggles and we have to make a change, you don't want to change holders. We're not real comfortable right now."

Longwell said that Rodgers has some natural abilities – catching the ball, placing it smoothly and not pressing it down too hard into the ground – for the holding job.

"On our field, you cannot hold it down into the grass because you lose a third of the ball in the ground," Longwell said. "So pressure on the ball is instrumental in getting the ball to come off, and he doesn't hold it down hard. So a couple things that are tough to teach, he does really well already."

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