Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 5/19/12
GRAFTON, Wis. -- It took Mason Crosby five seasons to reach his goal of making at least 80 percent of his field goals. Now that he's achieved that with a successful 2011 season, the Green Bay Packers kicker wants to maintain that rate of accuracy throughout the rest of his career."Now I set a benchmark of where I want to be, in the mid-80s percentage-wise, in that range," Crosby told FOXSportsWisconsin.com during a stop in Grafton on the Packers seventh-annual Tailgate Tour.Crosby began last season by connecting on his first 16 field-goal attempts through Week 10. Within that stretch, Crosby tied his own previous franchise record with a 56-yarder during a 4-for-4 day in Atlanta in Week 5. Two weeks later in Minnesota, Crosby booted the longest field goal in Packers history when he connected from 58 yards out."I was able to capitalize on long field goals, and that's a huge part of it, too," Crosby said. "We try a lot of long field goals, so if I'm making those, my percentage will be higher and where it needs to be. So I have to keep getting those to fall."Once Crosby's streak ended in Week 11 -- with an attempt that bounced off the right goalpost in the west end zone at Lambeau Field against Tampa Bay -- his misses became a bit more frequent. But Crosby still made eight of his final 12 field goals (66 percent) throughout the rest of the season, concluding his career-best year with an 85.7 success rate. Crosby's previous high mark was 79.5 during his rookie season in 2007.But Crosby is still not satisfied."I'm definitely my harshest critic," Crosby said. "I want to be more successful and make even more kicks."With the belief that Crosby could become the franchise's long-term solution at kicker, the Packers signed the 27-year-old to a five-year contract extension last offseason. While that new deal did provide him some security, with NFL contracts not being guaranteed, Crosby tried to keep his mental approach the same as it was five years ago when he was the 193rd overall pick in the draft."In my mind, it's always year to year," Crosby said. "Our contracts are set that way. It's a motivating factor for me. I have to continue to improve and prove myself every time I go out, not just to the organization, but to myself with what I believe I can do in my ability."Kicking in an outdoor stadium in Green Bay, especially as the weather begins to get colder late in the year, adds to the challenge each season for Crosby. It's a challenge that kickers who play in domed stadiums like Minnesota and Detroit don't face. And while that extra element increases the likelihood of more missed field goals, it also makes injuries more difficult to avoid. However, since taking over the starting role immediately as a rookie, Crosby has not missed a single game."Whenever it gets cold, when the weather gets tough, just staying in games is important," Crosby said.Crosby's good health is not just coincidence. He's become comfortable with his limited in-season workout routine, instead using the offseason to train more vigorously."This is the time of year for me to try to build up my legs, build up my strength," Crosby said. "For me during the season, I can't lift extremely heavy on my legs and I can't do a lot just because I'm kicking a lot and I need to make sure my legs are fresh."During the season it's more just sustaining and trying to keep that strength up there. During the offseason, I work out hard, get my legs sore, get my whole body sore and make sure that once that season comes I have the stamina and the endurance to last, because it is a long season."I kick all four preseason games each year, kick all the regular season games including playoffs, so I don't get a breather."As good as the Packers' offense has been in recent seasons, a continued steadiness from Crosby will be important for the possessions when Aaron Rodgers and company are unable to get to the end zone. If Crosby's improvement in 2011 is any indication, the Packers may have found a kicker who could even surpass what Ryan Longwell did so well in Green Bay for nine years."It is awesome that, scoring-wise, I'm on an offense where we're comparable, and I'm even passing some of (Longwell's) numbers, as this offense keeps getting better and better," Crosby said. "I'm working hard this offseason and I think it's going to pay dividends next year again."Follow Paul Imig on Twitter
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