After ‘very, very difficult decision,’ Nate Freese wins Lions’ kicking job
Detroit – — Less than a week before the final roster cuts, rookie kicker Nate Freese will have to pack up his things and move out of his temporary home.
It’s not because he didn’t make the Lions roster.
It’s because he did.
After a neck-and-neck competition, one that looked to be among the tightest among position groups since training camp started, Freese beat Giorgio Tavecchio for the spot.
Tavecchio was released Monday, and coach Jim Caldwell said the Lions aren’t pursuing any veteran kickers.
“It was a tough competition and very, very difficult decision,” Caldwell said before Monday’s practice. “Giorgio did a nice job and both guys took this thing on in a professional manner and Nate ended up edging him out. They’re both very capable guys but as we looked at all the factors involved, Nate was the best one for us at this time.”
With another exhibition game remaining Thursday against the Bills, the competition could have continued another week, but apparently, Caldwell had seen enough to make his decision.
“It’s kind of crazy but I’m grateful for my opportunity and I want to make the most of it,” Freese said.
“As a kicker, you always want to be positive and have the mindset this is my job and to do my very best every single day or I’m not going to have this job.”
Last week, Caldwell announced that Freese and Tavecchio would alternate kicks in last Friday’s exhibition, a 13-12 victory over the Jaguars. But there was only one extra point, which Freese made. Tavecchio missed a 51-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter.
Freese apparently made a big impression with his 55-yard field goal at O.co Coliseum against the Raiders in the second exhibition.
“There were a number of different things we considered just in terms of overall their ability to kick and they both were certainly capable in those areas,” Caldwell said.
Five more players also were cut Monday: Fullback Chad Abram, punter Drew Butler, cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Jonte Green, and quarterback James Franklin. They also placed backup safety DeJon Gomes on the reserve/injured list.
Green, taken in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, had struggled in his three seasons.
With the moves, the Lions reduced their roster to 75. The deadline to get down to the final 53-man roster is Saturday.
The Lions are hoping Freese has a better performance than David Akers, who struggled in his only season after taking over for longtime kicker Jason Hanson in 2013.
Freese said he’s talked with Hanson and former Lions kicker Eddie Murray to get some advice about how to handle the duties.
“They told me how to approach the game and that you’ve got to take care of your body and be a professional,” Freese said.
With the competition over, Freese can focus on honing his chemistry with long-snapper Don Muhlbach and holder Sam Martin. Even with other teams potentially releasing more experienced kickers this week, Caldwell said Freese is the Lions choice.
“He’s a capable young man and he’s going to grow and develop and I think you’re going to see him get better and better,” Caldwell said.
“I think this league is one where you don’t ever stand pat. He’s the guy we chose and he’s the best guy for the job; otherwise, we’d tell that you we’re going to open it up and look around.”
As for moving, Freese was going to have to relocate from the hotel whether he made the team or not.
“I have to be out of the hotel within the next week, so I have to find somewhere,” he joked. “I don’t mind living in a hotel — I kind of liked having someone clean up after me every day.”
Lions at Bills
Kickoff:7 p.m. Thursday, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, N.Y.
Records:Detroit 2-1, Buffalo 1-3
Line:Bills by 3½