GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 2018, the Green Bay Packers used a fifth-round draft pick on punter JK Scott and a seventh-round selection on long snapper Hunter Bradley.
Both have been replaced by players who spent training camp with the Los Angeles Rams this summer.
The Packers are promoting Steven Wirtel from the practice squad, a source said in confirming a report by The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. The Packers later made that move, and several others, official.
For what it’s worth, Bradley was the lowest-ranked snapper in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. The field-goal unit has lacked its typical efficiency. Mason Crosby missed two field-goal attempts in 2019 and zero in 2020. This year, he’s 13-of-17, his 76.5 percent accuracy being worse than only four kickers with a minimum of 10 attempts.
Green Bay signed Wirtel on Sept. 2.
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Wirtel snapped in 51 games at Iowa State from 2016 through 2019, earning first-team all-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine. At the Combine, he measured 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds and ran his 40 in 4.76 seconds. That was the fastest 40 by a long snapper in Combine history, though it's not a long list with 28 40-yard times recorded from 2000 through 2021. For comparison, Bradley, who overcame three torn ACLs at Mississippi State, ran his 40 in 4.78 at MSU’s pro day.
“One of the big things I've learned through this process is you have to find that one thing that separates you,” Wirtel said at the Scouting Combine. “For me, it’s been that athleticism. After snapping and blocking, how can I be a weapon? To me, that’s getting downfield and making plays. At the end of the day, I'm a football player, too. I want to stick my nose in there and make plays. That's what I love to do.”
Wirtel went undrafted in 2020 and spent the entire rookie season on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad. The Los Angeles Rams signed him in February and he lasted until Aug. 25. He spent part of his training camp snapping to punter Corey Bojorquez, who the Packers acquired in a trade on Aug. 31. Bojorquez has had a profound impact, ranking seventh in the NFL in net average. His only touchback came on his NFL-long 82-yard punt at Chicago.
Wirtel’s older brother, John, snapped for Kansas and got a shot with the Chicago Bears.
“It’s funny, people were like, ‘Sixth grade and you want to be a long snapper?” Wirtel said at the Combine. “It’s not something you think about, but we just explored the possibility of being a specialist in general. You can get college paid for potentially, so, shoot, might as well give it a shot.”
The transaction was part of several moves announced by the team on Tuesday afternoon. They also released linebacker Jaylon Smith, placed quarterback Kurt Benkert on the COVID-19 reserve list, re-signed defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson to the practice squad and released linebacker Aaron Adeoye from the practice squad.