Finding work as a kicker in the NFL is hard, especially for one who goes undrafted.
So, despite how things ended for Lions kicker Matt Prater in Denver, he has no bitter feelings toward the Broncos team that will play Sunday night at Ford Field.
As an undrafted rookie out of Central Florida, Prater started his career in training camp with the Lions in 2006. In Year 2, he spent the offseason with the Miami Dolphins then the first few weeks of the season with the Atlanta Falcons.
After a couple of unemployed months, the Dolphins brought him back to the practice squad, but in December 2007, the Broncos signed him to provide a boost on kickoffs. When Jason Elam left the Broncos in free agency to join the Falcons, Denver gave Prater a shot, and he ran with the opportunity, one that came with the added pressure because Elam had been a steady option for the past 15 years.
“They had high expectations and they stuck with me through the ups and downs and it ended up working out for everybody,” Prater said.
Prater became the primary kicker for the Broncos from 2008-13, but his time in Denver ended unceremoniously last year. While he served a four-game suspension for an alcohol-related infraction, the Broncos cut him in favor of Brandon McManus, giving the Lions a chance to sign him and improve an unreliable kicking unit early in 2014.
Prater said last week he had a great relationship with many of the people in Denver, including quarterback Peyton Manning. He once organized a way to have Manning and former Broncos receiver Wes Welker’s cars between two scissor lifts so they couldn’t move them. Right as Prater was going to give them their keys back, he saw that someone had his car towed.
And since the 2015 season began, Prater said he’s exchanged some trash talk with his former teammates, mostly related to Denver long snapper Aaron Brewer.
Prater planned to talk with some of the Broncos before and after the game, but he doesn’t expect the experience of playing against them to be anything different than usual.
“It’s another game, and I expect to just go out do my part and help our team get a win this week,” he said.
And Lions coach Jim Caldwell isn’t concerned about Prater focusing too much on playing his old team either.
“He’s a pro,” Caldwell said. “These guys don’t go through the type of true emotional swings that you would anticipate.”