Packers LB Matthews returns to practice
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Tim Masthay said nothing was out of the ordinary Monday morning, when the veteran Green Bay Packers punter and his young challenger, Cody Mandell, reported for work.
''He was in meetings, and I lifted weights with him,'' Masthay said. ''But I did not see him after that.''
That's because, shortly before practice started in the early afternoon, Masthay and others learned Mandell was released by the team.
The decision came less than two weeks into training camp and before Green Bay plays its first preseason game, Thursday night at the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
But the move didn't come as a surprise to Masthay, now the only punter on the roster.
''These things kind of happen all of the time and at different times,'' Masthay said.
He recalled being cut by the Indianapolis Colts a few days before their first preseason game in 2009, when he was an undrafted rookie.
Why Mandell was let go early in camp wasn't disclosed Monday. Coach Mike McCarthy met with reporters before practice and before the team announced Mandell's release.
Masthay had little reaction to the news, but he viewed it as a vote of confidence from the likes of general manager Ted Thompson, McCarthy and first-year special teams coordinator Ron Zook.
''But by no means do I take it as a, `Hey, you're guaranteed to be (here),''' Masthay said. ''I feel like I've still got about 25 days until preseason is over. I've got 25 days to keep working to improve, to keep working to perform. So that's my focus.''
Masthay is looking ahead to better days with the Packers, for whom he has been punting since their Super Bowl-winning season in 2010. A subpar second half of 2014 shook Masthay's confidence and caused him to lose sleep at night.
''I was trying to fight my way out of it and never completely did during the season,'' Masthay said.
Masthay finished his fifth NFL season with career-worst numbers for net punting average (37.0 yards) and punts placed inside the opponent's 20-yard line (14).
''Honestly, to me, the worst part of it, the most painful part of it, is feeling like I was letting my teammates and coaches down,'' Masthay said. ''That's the part I didn't shake the whole time.''
Saying he felt he was rushing his kicks during his dismal stretch last season, Masthay has refined his punting technique. He also isn't allowing negative thoughts he says distracted him in those final months of the season to resurface.
''I feel very good right now,'' Masthay said. ''I feel confident going into these games, and I expect to perform. Now, that doesn't guarantee anything, so I've got to go out and make it happen. But I'm certainly expecting to do well.''
NOTES: LB Clay Matthews returned to practice Monday after being out a week because of knee soreness. McCarthy said Matthews' return to the field would be on a trial-and-error basis. Matthews said after practice he felt good, but he doesn't know if he will play Thursday. . LB Mike Neal practiced for the first time in camp. Neal had been on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing surgery in the offseason for what he said Monday was a recurring sports hernia. . Notables out of practice were defensive linemen Mike Daniels (ankle) and Letroy Guion (hamstring) and LB Nick Perry (groin). McCarthy said undrafted rookie WR Javess Blue suffered a shoulder injury in the Family Night practice at Lambeau Field on Saturday.
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