Detroit — A series of unfortunate events sent Matt Prater on a trip in the Wayback Machine.
The Lions kicker couldn’t remember the last time he punted in a game — but he was pressed into another role when punter Kasey Redfern was injured in the first quarter of the Lions’ 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
On a fourth-and-21 play, Redfern mishandled a snap and ran out of the Lions’ end zone, gaining eight yards on the broken play. After taking a big hit from Ifeanyi Momah, Redfern was injured and after being examined by medical personnel was carted to the locker room.
And for the first time in his 11-year career, Prater was the punter. He last punted in a game in 2005, as a senior at Central Florida, with four punts against Rice.
Although occasionally gets a few punting reps in during practice, being pressed into action in a game situation was a bit more stressful.
“In 11 years for me, that’s the first time something like that has ever happened,” Prater said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t ever prepare for something like that. When it does happen, you just try to fill in and do the best you can.”
The results weren’t exceptional — Prater’s first two punts were 31 and 30 yards — but he had his best effort in the third quarter, with a 47-yarder that pinned the Cardinals at their own 6-yard line.
It was a full-game effort for Prater, who added the punting duties to his field goals and kickoffs. Doing it impromptu didn’t affect him immediately, but it may catch up to him later.
“You don’t really prepare for it, so I’m going to definitely have a few ice bags on my leg later on tonight,” Prater said. “Just from punting the ball, it’s a different leg swing and it feels different. It’ll probably (hurt) more tomorrow.”
It likely will turn out to be a one-game cameo for Prater, as the Lions will spend this week assessing Redfern’s status — and if it’s dire, they’ll likely try out a few potential replacements and sign their best option.
“Hopefully, we’ll rectify that before the next game. Kasey was hurt and he had a significant injury,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Certainly, this young man has worked extremely hard and he’s done a nice job for us. I was looking for him to have the kind of year he’s shown he was having throughout the preseason.
“If something like that happens, you have to have a contingency plan, which we did. Fortunately, Matt was able to come in and help us.”
The hardest part of the punting role for Prater was long-snapper Don Muhlbach’s missile-like deliveries, which took some time to get accustomed to. It’s one thing to see them coming to Redfern — who’s also the holder on extra points and field goals — but to get them directly on punts took some adjustment.
“With Mule snapping the ball so well, it made it easier for me to catch it — and I was basically trying not to screw up too bad and kick it right out of bounds,” Prater joked. “I know it’s going to be fast and right on the money, so it’s all on me if I don’t catch it and get it off.
“Mule has been doing it for a long time — and there’s a reason he’s in his 14th year doing it: he’s one of the best to ever do it.”
Prater made his only field-goal attempt, a 58-yarder just before halftime, which pulled the Lions within 10-9, capping their first-half comeback, after spotting the Cardinals a 10-0 early advantage.