“I don’t kick a lot in the offseason,” Prater said. “Now I really wait until OTAs to really start kicking. Just lift weights and get ready, watch film and try to learn from mistakes, but I think more of my mistakes are from human error more than anything.”
At this point in his career, Prater understands his process. He’s become one of the NFL’s top kickers — including representing the NFC in the Pro Bowl this year and making a 76-yard field goal in practice. He’s been consistent, too, making at least 80 percent of his field goals every year since 2012.
This season, he made 31 of 36 field goal attempts, including all seven tries from 50 yards or longer. He also hit all eight of his field goal attempts in the final three minutes of games this season, when pressure is higher.
Having Prater take a light kicking regimen in the offseason makes sense, too. He’ll be 33 years old by the start of the 2017 season and, while not old by kicking standards in the NFL, it’s worth it to the Lions to save the number of kicks on his right leg.
It’s why Detroit typically brings in camp legs during OTAs and training camp to help ease the amount of work Prater and punter Sam Martin have to put on their legs when games don’t matter and practices are daily.
Sure, it helps to have the camp legs in case of injury, but Prater and Martin appear to have their jobs locked in for the foreseeable future, so it’ll just save them from wearing out or potentially getting hurt.
Prater doesn’t think he can get better from more kicks at this point. Getting stronger is the priority along with studying film to see whether there is any nuance to his motion he can shore up.
“You can always learn and try to get better,” Prater said. “But some of the misses that I had were obviously makeable kicks for me. Just didn’t make them.”
He has yet to have a perfect season in the NFL — in 2013 he missed one field goal and in 2010 and 2015 he missed two field goals — but he’s been close. And he’s been about as reliable as a kicker can be in the NFL.
That’s been huge for the Lions, who went two-plus seasons searching for kicking stability after Jason Hanson’s retirement. Prater has provided that for Detroit, so whatever process he needs to take to remain the consistent kicker he’s been should work.