Former Lions kicker Jason Hanson made an appearance at the team’s rookie minicamp last Saturday to meet rookie Nate Freese.
And while Hanson said he’ll be available to provide any help the seventh-round pick needs, the 21-year veteran doesn’t believe the former Boston College kicker needs much more coaching.
“Nate knows what he’s doing,” Hanson said during a phone interview Monday. “Nate’s not searching for how to kick; he knows how to kick. I just went down to say hi (and) hang out. And then at any point that he needs advice or he needs a second set of eyes on him, I’m there.”
Hanson, a second-round pick in 1992 who retired after the 2012 season, also met with Freese during his pre-draft visit in April, and said special teams coach John Bonamego asked him to come by and watch Freese kick last weekend.
The Lions are hoping Freese could be the long-term replacement for Hanson after veteran David Akers struggled last season. In their short time together, Hanson said he could tell Freese’s technique is “polished and refined.”
“I just kind of picked his brain,” Freese said of the interaction with Hanson. “What did you do your first minicamp? How did you handle yourself? What’s your routine? Just little things like that.”
Hanson, who lives in Metro Detroit, provided advice as far as adjusting to the NFL, but didn’t give him any kicking pointers.
“They didn’t draft this kid necessarily thinking, ‘Wow, we really have to shape him,’ ” Hanson said. “It may just be more about giving him little bits of advice about the NFL, but as far as kicking, he was drafted because he’s good.”
The selection of Freese theoretically gives the Lions their kicking specialists for the foreseeable future after picking punter Sam Martin in the fifth round last year. Freese also plans to compete with Martin for kickoff duties.
Like most kickers, Freese grew up playing soccer, but when he was a freshman at Strongsville High in suburban Cleveland and kicked with the football team’s senior kicker, the coach saw enough to invite him to play football.
Freese is accurate — he made 86.4 percent of his field goals at Boston College — and has experience kicking outside, which general manager Martin Mayhew liked because the Bears, Packers and Vikings play outdoors (Minnesota moves to TCF Bank Stadium this season).
“We played some cold games up there in Boston, so I got used to playing in wind and rain and snow,” Freese said.
The only question is Freese’s power. In college, his longest field goal was 52 yards, although he said he feels comfortable kicking from 60.
Hanson, who holds the NFL record with 52 field goals from 50-plus yards, believes Freese has plenty of leg strength.
“If a guy can hit a 60-yarder but he can’t hit 65, who cares?” Hanson said. “When do you try those, and when does it really matter? My first impression was that he has the leg strength that he needs.”
And while Hanson said he’s willing to help the rookie, he does wonder why he isn’t still in Freese’s shoes.
“It is a love-hate thing,” Hanson said. “You watch him kick on the field and you’re watching him practice, and you’re like, ‘What am I doing? Why am I not doing this still?’
“But I’m not doing it, so I just hope I’m a resource for when they (the Lions) need me and whatever that is.”