Lions bring in Jason Hanson to help find new kicker

Posted Apr 24, 2014

Jason Hanson is giving the Lions a hand, but not his foot, in their offseason search to find a new kicker.

Jason Hanson is giving the Lions a hand, but not his foot, in their offseason search to find a new kicker.

Hanson is spending time with young kickers in what amounts to free-lance consulting in this week’s veteran mini-camp in Allen Park.

Hanson, who retired before last season after 21 seasons with the Lions, said he was invited to mini-camp by John Bonamego, who is beginning his second season as special-teams coordinator. Hanson’s presence was obvious Wednesday during the portion of practice that was open to the media.

“He (Bonamego) just wanted another set of eyes for the guys they want to kick,” Hanson said in a telephone interview from his home Wednesday evening. “He wanted my opinion – somebody else to give feedback to him. They have a short time to look at the guys, to see if they feel they have the guys they want or if they want to look at other people.”

The Lions are undertaking a rare – for them – youth movement in the kicking game. For the first time since 1992, when Hanson joined the Lions as a second-round draft pick, the Lions have started the offseason without a veteran kicker on the roster. Before Hanson, Eddie Murray was the kicker from 1980-91.

John Potter and Giorgio Tavecchio, who have combined for four field-goal attempts – all by Potter – are the only kickers on the roster. Both were signed in the offseason, and Potter is the only one who has kicked in a regular-season NFL game.

John PotterK John Potter (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Potter, from Grand Haven and Western Michigan University, was with Buffalo for six games in 2012 and with Washington for three games in 2013. Potter has made three of four field-goal attempts, all with Washington.

Tavecchio, a native of Italy who kicked in college at the University of California-Berkeley, has spent time in training camp the last two years with the 49ers and Packers but did not make the regular-season roster.

After Hanson’s retirement, the Lions went with experience for his replacement, signing David Akers for his 16th NFL season. Akers, who turned 39 in December, was inconsistent and has not been re-signed.

Three days is a short time frame to give a detailed evaluation. And the way young kickers are developed by attending kicking camps presents an unusual problem for Hanson.

“Here’s the problem: everybody’s good,” Hanson said. “If you brought them in, they’re good. They’ve earned the right to get a shot, to try out.”

Hanson said he has given Tavecchio and Potter some tips on such things as how to react to pressure, and they’ve asked him questions.

In the end, any decision will be up to Bonamego and the rest of the staff.

“He’ll have his thoughts,” Hanson said. “It’s not a huge pow-wow. It’s more of a debriefing. I appreciate that he wants another set of eyes. While I’m out there, they’re asking me stuff. I’m glad to help them anyway I can.

“They know what they’re doing. I’m not really teaching them.”

Hanson, who turns 44 in two months, looks as trim as ever – fit enough to kick. He has no intention of playing again, but being on the practice field gets his competitive juices boiling.

“I’m glad to do it, but this isn’t really fun for me to go down and watch these guys kick,” Hanson said, only half-jokingly. “How do you keep your blood pressure down.

“But that’s for anybody who ever played. That’s just the way it works.”