Anders Carlson embracing Packers’ kicker competition

By: Paul Bretl 5/29/24

The competition at kicker for the Green Bay Packers is already well underway, and second-year player Anders Carlson is making sure to embrace it.

“I think it’s something you embrace,” said Carlson after Tuesday’s practice. “I think when you’re in the NFL, you’re going to compete. Whether you see people in your building or not, it’s a competitive business. So, no, it’s all about staying in your own lane and being a good teammate and just trying to be the best.”

Last season, it was the Packers who embraced the unpredictability that can come with relying solely on a rookie kicker, in what ended up being a roller coaster ride of a year for Carlson.

Carlson would miss either a field goal attempt or an extra point in 10 of the Packers’ final 12 games, including a crucial kick in the final minutes of Green Bay’s eventual playoff loss to San Francisco. Carlson’s six missed extra points were the most in football, and from Week 5 on, there were only three games where he didn’t miss an attempt.

The silver lining, I suppose, from Carlson’s rookie season was his resiliency and ability to bounce back–something Rich Bisaccia has spoken highly of since the Packers drafted him. Despite the inconsistencies, Carlson would never miss back-to-back kicks.

“When I dissected my season,” said Carlson, “most of my field-goal misses were just left when the wind was blowing right to left. I don’t know the specific number, but four out of five or five out of the six were just left, and that’s including that long one from Detroit. But still, like I said, if it’s one miss, it’s something you can correct and focus on.”

As Carlson looks to be the Packers’ kicker in 2024 and bounce-back this season, he isn’t in uncharted waters, and neither is Bisaccia.

Carlson’s brother, Daniel Carlson, had a rocky start to his NFL career as well. In D. Carlson’s first two seasons, he would make only 36 of his 47 field goal attempts and was released as a rookie by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.

D. Carlson would latch on with the Raiders when Bisaccia was the special teams coordinator, and since 2020, has been one of the more reliable kickers in football.

“Obviously his first year was a little rocky, too,” said Anders of his brother. “When we were off the field, we talked about it a good bit. But, really, we love getting on the field and competing. I think that makes us better. It’s kind of the same thing here, competing every day.”

Carlson said he spent a portion of the offseason training with his brother Daniel at Auburn, where he went to school. Now, back in Green Bay, Carlson is competing with Greg Joseph, who was signed during free agency, and Jack Podlesny, who was signed just days after the Packers’ 2023 season came to an end.

Podlesny is a two-time National Champion with Georgia, who went undrafted in 2023 and struggled to stick to an NFL roster last season. Joseph, meanwhile, has spent the last three seasons in Minnesota, making 82.2 percent of his field goal attempts–although he has struggled at Lambeau Field.

There isn’t enough time in a single practice to get all three kickers reps with the team, so Bisaccia said there is a rotation where one day, two kickers will get the field goal attempts. Then, the next practice, the kicker who was out the day before will be in while someone comes out, and the process repeats.

In the past, Bisaccia has said he prefers to have only two kickers on the roster for training camp because, as illustrated above, it is difficult to give three kickers regular reps. However, he didn’t know if that would be the case or not this year. Bisaccia also left the door open to making an addition if the team feels that is what’s best.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” said Bisaccia on carrying two or three kickers this summer. “It might be those three. It might be three other ones,” said Bisaccia. “I don’t know. It might be six. We’re appreciative of certainly Brian getting it to the point where it’s at right now, having a three-man competition. We’ll see how long we can keep that going.

“Maybe the anticipation of even having, you know, there’s some things going on in a bunch of different leagues, right, that everyone’s about, so we’re going to keep investigating to try to end up with the best player we possibly can.”

From Day 1 of last offseason, Bisaccia, Matt LaFleur, and Brian Gutekunst all knew that there would be growing pains for Carlson–it was something that was brought up routinely throughout the season. Hindsight being 20/20, the Packers probably would take a different approach at kicker if they knew how good the team was going to be by the end of last season.

Instead, the Packers chose patience as Carlson navigated the steep learning curve of being a rookie kicker in the NFL. However, for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations in 2024, there is no more patience. Carlson either has to perform, or someone else will be doing the job.

“It’s all about staying in your own lane. We were talking about it earlier. It’s a unique position because you’re on your own a lot, anyway, so it’s learning about yourself a lot.

“But then also you get the team aspect with the live holds and kicks, the snap and the holder, as well. So just buying into the guys around you, but also knowing yourself and building off of what you’ve learned.”