GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Tim Masthay is ready for a fresh start in the playoffs.
After yearly improvement, the Green Bay Packers' fifth-year punter had his statistics dip for the first time this season - the result of a rough second half after putting up career-best numbers during the first half.
Masthay averaged 44.1 gross and 37.0 net yards per punt on the season, struggling to get in a rhythm during a season where his workload was limited by NFL's highest-scoring offense.
''It's been kind of a frustrating year for me because the first half of the year went very well, and the second half of the year has not gone very well at all,'' said Masthay, who finished the regular season having punted a career-low 49 times, the fewest in team history for a 16-game season.
''(But) the regular season's over and it's time to clean-sheet it and make a little run here in the playoffs.''
Since taking over as the team's punter in 2010, Masthay's net average had improved every year - from 37.6 in 2010 to 38.6 in 2011 to 38.9 in 2012 to 39.0 last season, breaking the team record for net average each of those four seasons.
This season, not only did Masthay have his worst net average, he also had his lowest inside-the-20 rate (14 of 49 punts, 28.6 percent) and his highest touchback rate (4 of 49, 8.2 percent).
During Sunday's 30-20 victory over Detroit in the regular-season finale, Masthay punted three times, averaging 39.0 gross and 27.7 net yards, with one touchback and one punt inside the 20.
''I think Tim needs to punt better,'' special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said last week. ''He needs to move forward and we've talked about that.
''Like any player, there's technique involved. That's always the challenge regardless of the position that you play that you work on your technique and you fine-tune it. And he's got some fine-tuning to do.''
Masthay agrees, and adds that his necessary fine-tuning may also be mental.
At midseason, Masthay - the franchise's career leader in both career gross and net punting average - was kicking as well as usual.
At the bye, he'd punted 28 times and averaged 47.0 gross yards and 41.1 net yards per punt, which would have both been career bests had he sustained that pace. He also had placed nine balls inside the 20-yard line, an inside-the-20 rate of 32.1 percent.
During the second half of the season, Masthay punted 21 times, with disappointing results. His averages were 40.1 gross and 31.5 net, including a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Buffalo's Marcus Thigpen on Dec. 14.
''(I'm) not as high on confidence as I have been in the past. I'd be flat-out lying if I didn't say that,'' Masthay said. ''(But) I've got a fair amount of history of being able to punt well, and there's nothing intimidating about the playoffs. I think if the second half of the season would have occurred in my second year or even my third year, it would be tougher to handle emotionally and to feel confident that I could come back from it.
''I need to regain some confidence, I need to perform better in the playoffs, but it's not something that I'm worried about. I don't, it's just not something I'm worried about. I expect to do it. Will it happen? There's no guarantees. I don't know it's going to happen. But I'm certainly hopeful it'll happen, I expect it to happen, and I'm just not worried about it. I'm confident in what I've done in the past.''
NOTES: For the second straight day, quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not take part in practice, instead getting treatment on his injured left calf. Rodgers is expected to return to practice on Thursday. . Wide receiver Jordy Nelson missed another practice due to what the team termed a ''personal matter,'' although he came through the locker room with his son and later had a workout. ... Inside linebacker Sam Barrington, who did not practice on Friday due to illness, was back to work Saturday.
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