Kapinos Captures Punting Battle
Jeremy Kapinos
Jeremy Kapinos
Posted Aug 30, 2009

Jeremy Kapinos, who leads the NFL in net punting this preseason while allowing only 4 return yards on seven punts, has beaten out Durant Brooks. But with some solid veterans on the street and a couple of two-man battles yet to be decided, Kapinos figures to be on a short leash.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Durant Brooks, Stryker Sulak and JaRon Harris were “excused” from Sunday afternoon’s practice.

They’re excused from the rest of training camp, too.

While McCarthy said an announcement about roster moves will be made on Monday, the team presumably released the punter, outside linebacker and receiver to get below the league limit of 75 players before Tuesday’s deadline.

Barring a late roster addition, the release of Brooks means Jeremy Kapinos has won the punting battle. He averaged 54.0 yards with a net of 50.5 on two attempts on Friday in Arizona’s dome.

“Kapinos has the ball,” McCarthy said. “It’s his responsibility to keep it. He’s battled through this competition. I thought he kicked well in the game. I think he has some things we can continue to improve on with him, because he is a young (punter). I like his disposition, the way he goes about his business. And he has the ball right now.”

Through three preseason games, Kapinos ranks seventh in the NFL with a 46.4-yard average and leads the league in net at 46.3. He’s allowed only 4 returns yards on his seven punts.

It’s a huge improvement after struggling with Brooks through the first couple practices.

“My No. 1 goal is to get myself ready to play and not necessarily concern myself with what was going on in terms of what he was doing,” Kapinos said. “You know, I know my capabilities. Obviously, I want to be at the strongest toward the end of training camp.”

Kapinos, who punted in the final four games of last season, knows he can’t rest on the accomplishment. McCarthy hinted that Kapinos is on a short leash after watching Derrick Frost hit bad ball after bad ball before finally replacing him after 12 games last season.

“I have no interest in going through what we went through last year,” McCarthy said. “We’ll learn from that experience, and I think it’s a great opportunity that he’s handled very well so far.”

Mitch Berger, the 37-year-old veteran who is a two-time Pro Bowler, is the best of the unemployed punters. Kyle Larson, who struggled to a 39.5-yard average last season with Cincinnati but boasts a career mark of 42.0 and is considered a quality placement punter, is available, too.

Jacksonville has two quality punters in camp (Adam Podlesh and Steven Weatherford), and the Packers will get an up-close look at A.J. Trapasso when they visit Tennessee on Thursday. The Titans’ incumbent punter is former Packer Craig Hentrich.

“There’s a lot of work to be done still. Now it’s time to start focusing on Tennessee and then Chicago,” Kapinos said.

Brooks, who was signed to the practice squad late last season, was a sixth-round pick by Washington in 2008 after winning the Ray Guy Award as the top punter in the nation at Georgia Tech. A sore hip flexor bothered him in Washington as it did during training camp this summer.

Also released were undrafted free agents Sulak, an outside linebacker, and Harris, a receiver. Both were caught up in a numbers game at the Packers’ deepest positions. Sulak, a sixth-round pick by Oakland this year who was released before being offered a contract, showed some pass-rushing potential during his month in Green Bay.

The deadline to get to 53 players is Sept. 5.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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