Packers have a tough decision to make

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Packers have a tough decision to make

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers are sticking with Mason Crosby, although that decision has as much to do with their personnel philosophy as it does with their faith in the struggling kicker.After missing a pair of field-goal attempts during the Packers' 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Crosby is 17 of 29 (an NFL-worst 58.6 percent) this season and has botched at least one kick in the past eight games. Nevertheless, coach Mike McCarthy remained steadfast in his support of Crosby, saying no change is in the offing."Mason Crosby is an accountable man. He needs to perform better," McCarthy said Monday. "I'm disappointed in the way he performed yesterday. There's more that goes into it as far as when you evaluate players and everything around each player at their position. So, at the end of the day, Mason will be our kicker and that's my focus."While Crosby was having another rough outing, two other players the team chose to keep around -- despite uneven production or injury issues -- were delivering for them: Sixth-year wide receiver James Jones and third-year defensive end Mike Neal."I think it's clear what we think about the players that we draft," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "We want to develop them and do well. Mason's had some bumps and he needs to get it right."Crosby, a 2007 sixth-round draft pick out of Colorado, signed a five-year, 14.75 million contract extension that included a 3 million signing bonus in July 2011 and responded with the best season of his career last year, making 24 of 28 field-goal attempts.He has a base salary of 1.65 million this season and has three more years left on his deal, at 2.4 million in 2013, 2.65 million in 2014 and 2.8 million in 2015.Asked after Sunday's game if he was worried about the Packers cutting him, Crosby replied, "That's not even on my mind. ... I'm not even going to think about that."While Crosby has missed at least one kick in each of the Packers' last eight games, the team is 7-1 during that stretch."Obviously, it's frustrating whenever you're not making kicks," Crosby said. "But the biggest thing is that I'm not making the kicks to put this team up by two touchdowns. That was my thing. That was six points there and if we're up two touchdowns, it's a different end. But the result is the same. We won the game, just a little different ending."The Packers can only hope that Crosby rewards their faith the way Jones and Neal have.Jones struggled with inconsistent play and dropped passes earlier in his career, but was re-signed to an economical three-year deal before the 2011 season. After catching three touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Jones leads the NFL in TD receptions with 12. He enters this Sunday's game against Tennessee with a career-best 51 receptions for 622 yards.Neal, who endured two injury-plagued seasons and then opened this one serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, registered 1 sacks on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and was praised by outside linebacker Clay Matthews for helping him get his two sacks on stunts. Neal has 3 sacks this season, second on the team to Matthews (11)."It's the core of the philosophy of how we operate here. The core philosophy is draft and develop, and the development is about growth," McCarthy said. "Now, let's not act like there's not times when things are not moving in the right direction. Any time you hit a situation that's not favorable, you don't have production or the result is not what you intended it to be, you have to choose which direction you're going to go. The direction right now is we're sticking with Mason Crosby as our kicker."However, it does appear that Crosby's struggles are affecting McCarthy's decision-making. The Packers twice went for it on fourth down against the Bears, converting a fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 37-yard line in the second quarter instead of trying a 55-yard field goal and converting a fourth-and-6 from the Bears 26 instead of attempting a 44-yard kick.The first conversion didn't lead to points because Crosby missed a 43-yard attempt wide right on a fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 25, while the second conversion led to Jones' third touchdown, on the opening drive of the second half.Crosby's other miss came when McCarthy decided to try a 42-yard kick on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 24, and Crosby clanged it off the left upright."It wasn't an ideal day to kick but I thought he should have made both the field goals that we attempted," Slocum said. "The thing I'm disappointed in is not taking his preparation into the game. And he's got to do that. He had a great week of practice last week and was good in pregame warmup. He needs to make those field goals and trust what he's done during the week in preparation and move forward."I think he is really trying to get the ball through the uprights and I look forward to him doing it. And that's where we are."Asked if sticking with Crosby despite his misses might create an issue with other players, to whom accountability is constantly emphasized by the coaching staff, McCarthy acknowledged that was a possibility."That's a great question for the locker room," McCarthy replied. "I'm not going to sit here and act like everyone's not watching how the situation's being handled, there's no question about it. Evaluation of everybody is an ongoing process as you prepare to win each game."Definitely, no one's happy with the number of kicks that Mason has missed. As we stand here today on who's going to line up and kick, it's Mason Crosby. I don't know how to continue to answer this question. He needs to be accountable for his performance, but as far as what happens between the evaluation of the game or the past games and how he's performed and how we move forward into the next game, there's a number of different factors. Mason Crosby is our kicker."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.