Kicker Matt Prater adjusts to changing winds entering seventh season with Lions
Place-kickers crave consistency, but Matt Prater is facing more change than usual coming into his 16th season and seventh with the Detroit Lions.
Sure, Don Muhlbach is back, as if there was ever a doubt. The seemingly ageless long snapper is returning for his 17th season with the Lions and is second only to Jason Hanson on the franchise's games-played list.
But after Sam Martin bolted to Denver in free agency, there's going to be a new cog in the team's three-person battery for the first time since Prater signed with the Lions. On top of that, there's a new special teams coordinator — 33-year-old upstart Brayden Coombs, who is younger than both his kicker and long snapper.
"The biggest impression I've had of him is how he can control the meeting rooms," Prater, 35, said about the rookie coordinator during a Tuesday video conference call. "Obviously, everything's been virtual, but he has a presence and he can really control the meeting room. And he's knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He's been a lot of fun to learn from and work with so far."
As for who will be holding the ball when Prater lines up to kick this season, it figures to be whoever wins the punting job between Jack Fox and undrafted rookie Arryn Siposs, who formerly played Australian League Football before coming to the United States.
Prater expressed confidence in both candidates but noted it's going to take some time to get on the same page with the newcomers.
"It'll definitely take some time, but that's a big reason why I'm personally really excited to be back in the building, is to get to work with those guys in person," Prater said. "(We're) just trying to make up some of those lost reps during the OTAs. Moving forward, I think both of those guys are more than capable.
"I think just repetitions, and getting used to each other, the mannerisms, the timing, and just doing it over and over, and learning with each other. Everyone is going to be different, but like I said, I think they're both more than capable, and we're going to be working at it and getting rolling pretty quickly."
The safe bet is Prater will figure it out. He's brought much-needed stability to the Lions since signing in 2014, impressively converting 85.9 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 32 of 42 from 50 yards and beyond.
This offseason, Prater partnered with Bud Light in a competition against Brandon McManus of the Denver Broncos. The kicker who makes the longest field goal in 2020 will win free beer for their team's city.
Prater, who turns 36 this month, holds the NFL record with a 64-yard field goal. And while he said he isn't as strong as he was when he was younger, but still believes he's capable of breaking his own mark.
"I definitely think I could (still hit a 65-yarder)," he said. "I feel really good this year going into it. I feel like I'm in better shape, I feel better, my leg feels really fresh right now.
"As a kicker, there're probably a dozen guys in the league who could make a 65-yarder, it's just a matter of getting the opportunity in an actual game, and coming through on that kick," Prater continued. "But I'm definitely not as strong as I was when I was 22, 25 years old. But I'm a lot more consistent. So it's just evolving with my body changing as you get a little bit older."