Kicker Matt Prater yearns for return leg with Lions
Allen Park — In many ways, the Lions and Matt Prater were a perfect marriage when the team signed the kicker on Oct. 7.
Through five games, Lions kickers Nate Freese and Alex Henery made a combined 4 of 12 field-goal attempts, and both had to be cut after proving to be untrustworthy.
Prater, meanwhile, had spent the previous six weeks in a substance abuse treatment center in Florida to curb his alcohol addiction, which earned him a four-game suspension from the Denver Broncos to start the season.
The Broncos cut Prater — a Pro Bowler in 2013 — on Oct. 3, and the Lions offered him a second chance.
"I had other teams interested, too, but I really wanted to come here because I saw a great team," Prater said Monday. "Coach (Jim) Caldwell and (special teams coach John Bonamego) and everyone, I wanted to come here to work with them. They put a lot of trust in me, so I didn't want to let them down. Now, I feel like I owe them, and so I want to stay here as long as I can."
That last part is something the Lions and Prater will have to decide this offseason. The Lions signed Prater to a one-year deal, in part because of the alcohol issues and because signing him longer might've required a financial commitment the team wasn't able to make in October.
Even though Prater could have other offers again in the offseason, he wants to return to Detroit, the first NFL team that signed him in 2006 as a training camp leg-saver for longtime kicker Jason Hanson.
"Yeah, I definitely want to come back here and I've talked with my agent and told people in the building that I want to come back," Prater said. "I feel loyalty here because they gave me an opportunity and I had a lot of fun being here."
Prater listed his teammates, coaches, the ownership, general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand as reasons he enjoyed being with the Lions.
And after a shaky start, the Lions liked having Prater around, too. He made 1 of 3 field goals in his Week 6 debut, but didn't miss more than one in a game the rest of the season. He finished 21 of 26 and made nine of his final 10 attempts.
"When he came in, he solved some problems for us," Caldwell said. "He started out a little bit up and down and then at the end, he was strong. He did a nice job; he functioned like we knew he was capable of functioning. He helped us out a lot and obviously helped us win some ball games that were key."
Prater's best highlight was in a Week 8 game in London when he hit the game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired, though it followed him missing a 43-yarder that was waved off due to a delay of game. After the game, Prater's teammates chanted his name.
"That was a lot of fun. Thank god for the delay of game, but I guess it doesn't count as a miss in the books," he said. "It was a great experience; I'll never forget it."
…The Lions announced the signing of cornerback Crezdon Butler to a reserve/future contract.