June 27, 2014 at 11:52 am

Nate Freese, Giorgio Tavecchio compete to be Lions' long-term kicker

Retired Lions kicker Jason Hanson, left, has spent time with rookie kicker Nate Freese, right, and Giorgio Tavecchio (not pictured). Hanson says Tavecchio will push Freese to improve. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

The Lions finished their offseason with little clarity at kicker as Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio both had their share of struggles.

Freese, a seventh-round pick from Boston College, remains the favorite over Tavecchio, who went undrafted out of Cal in 2012, but the competition will likely continue through training camp and into the exhibition games. The Lions are looking for a long-term solution after veteran David Akers struggled in 2013 replacing the retired Jason Hanson.

“It’s good so far,” Freese said Tuesday at the NFL Rookie Symposium in Berea, Ohio. “I’m glad that there’s some competition. Competition makes everyone better.”

But Freese also said he’s not approaching the competition as a simple head-to-head with Tavecchio.

“I have more of a competition with myself,” he said. “I see it in that sense, but if I go out there and do what I need to do every day, I should be OK.”

Freese said he and Tavecchio have gotten along well in their nearly two months together in Detroit. They’re the only specialists competing for a job, with punter Sam Martin and long snapper Don Muhlbach cemented in their roles.

The two kickers also spent more time with Hanson during the offseason program, but they talked about life in the NFL more than kicking technique, Freese said.

Hanson stopped by Lions headquarters last year to help Norwegian YouTube sensation Havard Rugland, but Hanson told The Detroit News last month that Freese and Tavecchio already know how to kick.

“Giorgio is very good, so he’ll push Nate,” Hanson said. “But obviously if they draft a kid, they’re hoping he can be the guy. Nate will have to prove that and show that, but I think from just watching him kick and his collegiate stats, he has every chance in the world to do well.”

In the organized team activities and mandatory minicamp practices open to media, there wasn’t much field-goal kicking. During one OTA, Freese missed kicks from 46 yards and 48 yards while Tavecchio hit a 56-yarder. Freese, though, was much more accurate than Tavecchio during their most extensive kicking day in minicamp.

“As it went on, I got more comfortable with Sam and Muhl with our rhythm, and we’ve gotten it down pretty well so far,” Freese said.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
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