[Packers] Stemke joins Rams just in time for homecoming
Staff, wire service reports
Kevin Stemke, who starred as a kicker at Green Bay Preble High School in the mid-1990s, will realize a lifelong dream of playing in a regular season game at Lambeau Field when he punts for the St. Louis Rams in their game against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.
The Rams on Friday released Sean Landeta and signed Stemke, 26, who was with the Packers during training camp as a rookie in 2001.
“Monday night at Lambeau Field, a kid from Green Bay: that’s pretty much a dream come true there,” Stemke said.
Stemke spent the 2002 offseason and part of that year’s training camp with the Rams, then played in two games with the Oakland Raiders later that year. He was in Washington’s training camp this year.
The Packers passed on signing Stemke after he was released by the Redskins in late August. He was eighth in the NFL with a 44.7-yard gross average and ninth with a 38.8-yard net average on 16 punts.
Green Bay was in need of a punter because rookie B.J. Sander averaged only 36.7 yards gross and 31.5 yards net during camp.
The Packers instead signed 15-year veteran Bryan Barker, who is averaging 39.2 yards gross, 15th in the NFC, and 32.9 yards net.
Reggie McKenzie, the Packers’ director of pro personnel, conceded at the time that Stemke had outperformed Sander and Barker in the preseason, but added: “Our guy’s going to be all right.”
Stemke was in France with his wife Lizzy, a professional volleyball player, when the Rams called earlier this week. After a half-day trip to St. Louis and wearing borrowed shoes, he punted well enough on Thanksgiving Day through jet lag to impress the Rams.
“The pressure is pretty much off now,” said Stemke, a left-footed punter who starred at the University of Wisconsin. “Either I’m going to make it or I’m not. I’m confident I can do the job and hopefully they’re confident enough in me.”
Landeta, 42, was 10th in the NFL with a 43.3-yard gross average, but just 31st with a 32.5-yard net average this season.
He felt he might have been the scapegoat for special teams that rank near the bottom of the NFL in punt and kickoff returns, and in kickoff and punt coverage.
Landeta, a 20-year NFL veteran who was the Packers’ punter in 1998, hopes to catch on with another team.