New Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater says he hasn’t had a drink in six weeks
The Detroit Lions organization found itself in a dire situation after the team had no choice but to cut Alex Henery after the kicker missed all three field goal attempts in Detroit’s 17-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.
It left the team this week scrambling to find a replacement for Henery, who the team signed just two weeks prior after cutting rookie Nate Freese, meaning in the Lions were on their third kicker in six weeks. Not a good spot.
There always seems to be unemployed kickers with NFL experience when situations such as these arise for teams, simply waiting for the call to let them know their services are needed.
One such unemployed former NFL kicker the Lions had the option of signing was Matt Prater.
Prater, who has eight years of NFL experience, the last seven as a member of the Denver Broncos, has enjoyed a moderately successful career, converting 81.6% of his field goal attempts, including a career-high 96.2% last season.
So, why would such an established kicker coming off a monster season and Pro Bowl nod find himself out of job? The reason is Prater comes with a lot of baggage.
Prater was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 NFL season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Broncos decided to cut him loose on Oct. 3.
The kicker has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse program since August 2011 after he was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of a crash. Prater tested positive for alcohol in the offseason, prompting the four-game suspension.
But Prater believes he has made the right moves since his suspension to get both his life and career back on track. He entered a 12-step recovery program at the Hazelden treatment center in Naples, Fla. on a voluntary basis — albeit at the request of family members — and insists he hasn’t had a drink in six weeks. It’s all part of an effort to get things right, as Prater puts it, “trying just to work on myself as a person”
“Just trying to take it a day at a time,” Prater said, according to the Detroit Free-Press. “Sometimes you got to get knocked down and learn the hard way. I’m thankful that I have a second chance here and learn from all the mistakes I’ve made in the past and will not repeat them.”
Prater had a tryout with the Lions on Tuesday, but not before he met with head coach Jim Caldwell to discuss where he was at in his personal life.
Caldwell, while likely recognizing that another failed test by Prater would be suspended indefinitely by the NFL, nevertheless walked away impressed enough with what the kicker had to say about his addiction and recovery to allow his kicking be the measuring stick instead of focusing upon his troubled past.
“I am one who believes in a second chance,” Caldwell said. “And I’m probably (like) most of you out there: I’ve had a few second chances in my life, and (they) have made a tremendous difference. I know maybe some of you experienced maybe some of the same things.
“So I do think the young man is sincere, and it wasn’t just the hour conversation. We vetted him thoroughly a number of different ways, like we typically do in those situations. (General manager Martin Mayhew) did a great job with that, and the scouting staff as well. So there’s a lot of guys involved in that process.”
Prater, despite his off-the-field struggles, impressed the Lions enough to take a risk on him, signing him to a one-year deal.
It seems that the situations facing both Lions and Prater came together at a perfect time for the other, a confluence of events that could save the Lions season … and Prater’s career.