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O'HARA: Where Lions' kicking competition stands heading into first preseason game

The Detroit Lions have a battle for the kicking job between two players who competed against each other in high school in Illinois.

That's just one of the unusual twists in the competition that will get a test under fire in Friday night's first preseason game vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson, who both performed well in stints with the Lions last season, have to be ready to kick at all times against the Falcons in the way head coach Dan Campbell has structured the competition.

"I think high alert at all times would be the plan right now," Campbell said. "As of right now, you'll see both of them kicking in all games."

Kicker is one of the Lions' tightest position battles in terms of making the roster.

"I'd say so," Campbell said. "I like where both of them are at."

Teams seldom keep more than one kicker, which adds some pressure to the competition. It's winner take all, except for the possibility of being kept on the practice squad.

Seibert has an edge in experience. He played all 16 games with the Browns in 2019 and parts of 2020 with the Browns and Bengals. He was claimed on waivers by the Lions in 2021 and opened the season as the kicker.

He played only six games because of COVID-19 and later an injury. For the season, he made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts and all five extra point attempts.

Patterson was signed off the Patriots' practice squad as a rookie last season and kicked in the Lions' last seven games. He made 13 of 14 field-goal attempts and all 16 extra points.

Campbell said this week that Seibert has a slight edge over Patterson, but he also said Patterson is 'golden' inside 50 yards.

Seibert and Patterson are used to competing against each other, but not for the same job.

"I've known Riley since high school," Seibert said. "We played each other."

Patterson called the competition with Seibert "definitely interesting."

"We've known each other for so long," he said. "There are only so many kickers. There are 32 teams, 32 kickers. You're bound to run into guys you've trained with before."

A kicker competition is unusual for the Lions. From 1980 through 2020 – a span of 41 seasons -- the Lions had just four primary kickers, as follows:

  • Eddie Murray, seventh-round pick, 12 seasons, 1980-91
  • Jason Hanson, second-round pick, 21 seasons, 1992-2012
  • David Akers, free agent, one season, 2013
  • Matt Prater, free agent signed five games into the 2014 season, seven seasons through 2020

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