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O'HARA: Prater using camp to work on the small details

Matt Prater isn't trying to kick the media out of practices at the Detroit Lions' training camp.

It only seems that way.

The layout of the practice fields at the Lions' Allen Park headquarters puts the media in the landing area when Prater practices kicking field goals using the narrow uprights.

Media members watch practice from the grandstand at the south end of the field, which is the end with the narrow uprights. Regulation uprights – more than twice as wide as the narrow ones – are at the north end.

That puts them well within range of Prater's kicks. In a typical practice, a dozen or more balls will sail into the stands.

Some are caught. Some are dropped. Some are ducked. And others will land on the metal benches with a loud clang.

"I wasn't trying to hit all you guys," Prater said after a recent practice.

"You guys happen to be right behind the uprights. Even if I missed, it would be right at you. Yeah, I see you guys there. I don't want to hit anybody.

"I like practicing on the skinny upright as much as I can. If I get used to looking at that, then you go out and kick on the regular posts, it looks like you can't miss."

Bottom line: Prater has a job to do to prepare for the season, and anyone potentially in the line of fire should be alert – or move to one side of the bleachers.

Watching Prater go through his practice routine is a case study in a professional working at his craft. In his 13 seasons, the last five with the Lions, Prater has established himself as one of the NFL's most accurate field-goal kickers from long distance.

He had an amazing two-year run in 2016-17, connecting on 12 of 13 field-goal attempts from 50 yards or longer. That's a success rate of 92.3 percent and makes his reputation for being an elite kicker from long range well earned.

"I like that," he said. "I feel like I've got the stats or whatever to prove it. I want to go out and attempt the longer kicks. I feel like I can separate myself from some other guys by making those kicks consistently.

"Anytime I go out, I expect to make it. The coaches expect me to make it. That's what I'm supposed to do. My job is to make kicks."

One of Prater's most memorable kicks as a Lion was a 58-yard cannon shot in an overtime road win over the Vikings in 2016. It tied the game on the last play of regulation time, and the Lions won in overtime.

Prater remembers that kick, but not as vividly as some misses.

"I've always been the kind that I remember the misses more," he said. "I don't remember the makes. I can remember every little detail about the misses."

View photos from Family Fest presented by Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers at Ford Field on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.

Head coach Matt Patricia obviously appreciates Prater's talent, but he also likes his knowledge of game situations and conditions.

"The other thing about him that's so wonderful is, he's a great communicator," Patricia said. "If there's a situation in the game that'll come up situations that come up and he's like, 'I feel really strongly about this,' I trust him."

Success comes from working on details, not by accident or taking his skills for granted. The routines he goes through are similar to a golfer grooving his swing. In Prater's case, he wants to correct flaws that he sees on video.

"It's kind of fine-tuning it – doing the small details," he said. "It's not perfect, but it gets you as close as you can.

"As a specialist, you're either perfect or you have a bad day. There's no in between. You want to be as close to perfect as you can."

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