Lions kickers face interesting challenge

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They all surrounded the Detroit Lions kickers, yelling, screaming and trying to be a general distraction and overall nuisance.

And yet, that was the point Wednesday afternoon when Lions coach Jim Caldwell wanted his other players to do this to try and distract kicking candidates Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio. This, after all, is what the kickers will face during road games this fall, so why not try to see what they can handle in a simulated situation during training camp?

"To have a competition, a little pressure, something a little different, out of the ordinary," Caldwell said. "We went a little overboard to make sure he can focus. At the end, there are some long, long field goals now."

When Tavecchio was asked the name of the drill, he didn't know, so he called it what it appeared to be: "Chaos."

The pressure combined with the distance led both Freese and Tavecchio to have less-than-perfect days during that situation. Tavecchio went 3 of 5 during the period, hitting from 36, 45 and 54 yards while missing from 62 and 67. Freese, meanwhile, went 2 of 5, connecting from 45 and 54 yards and missing from the other three distances.

"They were pretty far field goals," Freese said. "So I try to play the wind a little bit and sometimes it's a little difficult."

Freese said during the period, he didn't hear exactly what players were saying to him or if they were making faces at him. Other than Wednesday, Freese has calmed down considerably since the beginning of camp, when he struggled to make field goals almost daily.

He made both of his attempts during Saturday night's preseason opener against Cleveland and has consistently remained with the first group throughout camp. Part of the newfound consistency comes from having more familiarity with his holder, Sam Martin, and snapper, Don Muhlbach.

"We've been getting in a good rhythm, getting our times down," Freese said. "Getting our op[erational] times down and good."

There will eventually be a decision made between Freese and Tavecchio -- and as long as Freese is working with the first unit consistently, that is probably a good sign for him -- but until then, Caldwell said he is going to find different ways to challenge them.

Wednesday, by having the rest of the team involved, was just one of them.

"We all have the same goal in mind and they enjoy getting into it because they understand what we're trying to get accomplished," Caldwell said. "They know the result of that and whoever is going to come out of the competition is going to help us win, so I think all of that helps you."