They’re packed in boxes, sitting in a room in his house, and when Matt Prater’s 3-year-old son, Pax, goes through his old game balls, he sometimes reminds his dad: “Dad, you used to play for the Broncos.”
Prater will play his first game in Denver on Sunday since the Broncos released him early in the 2014 season, after he finished a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse.
Lions kicker Matt Prater kicks a 54-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears in the first half on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Chicago.
Lions kicker Matt Prater kicks a 54-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears in the first half on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Matt Marton USA TODAY Sports)
As dark as the end was, Prater said he remembers his days in Denver fondly and is looking forward to kicking against his old team this weekend when the Lions visit Empower Field.
“I’ll always have a special place for Denver just ’cause I basically started my career there and played there a while,” he said. “I got nothing but good memories looking back, so it’s cool.”
Prater, who’ll play his 90th game as a Lion on Sunday, signed with the Broncos late in the 2007 season and took over as the team’s full-time kicker a year later. He made his first Pro Bowl with the Broncos in 2013, when he led the league in field-goal percentage (96.2%) and set an NFL record with a 64-yard field goal.
“That was six years ago now,” he said. “It was cold that day, too. It was like 10 or 12, I think. I can’t remember the exact (temperature), but I know it was cold.”
Oct 29, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater (5) holds son Pax Prater before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater (5) holds son Pax Prater before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Game-time temperature is expected to be about 60 degrees Sunday, good kicking weather, and Prater said he’d love an opportunity to break his mark against his old team.
More: Detroit Lions vs. Denver Broncos: Dave Birkett’s scouting report, prediction
“There’s a lot of guys that could do it, it’s just getting the opportunity,” he said. “It’s got to be right before the end of the half or right at the end of the game just ’cause field position’s so important. So many games are close, it’s just getting that opportunity.”
Mostly, though, Prater said he’s looking forward to seeing a few old neighbors and friends who might attend the game and people inside the organization, such as assistant equipment manager Kenny Chavez, who helped Prater break in the “K” kicking balls.
“I’ve got fond memories,” Prater said. “I remember the good times, bad times, but that’s like anywhere you go. You’re going to have ups and downs. I remember more of the good than bad, though. … I had a good run and it was fun.”
The Lions ruled three starters out of Sunday’s game: Right tackle Rick Wagner (knee), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (shoulder) and linebacker Christian Jones (shoulder). All three players will be missing their second straight games.
Detroit Lions offensive lineman Rick Wagner goes through drills during training camp Sunday, August 4, 2019 in Allen Park. Lions
Detroit Lions offensive lineman Rick Wagner goes through drills during training camp Sunday, August 4, 2019 in Allen Park. Lions (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC)
Linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) are questionable to play. Both practiced on a limited basis Friday, though Kennard missed two practices earlier this week.
The Lions (3-10-1) still have one open spot on their 53-man roster and are expected to promote running back Kerryon Johnson before Sunday’s game.
“We’ll see how he feels after (practice Friday),” Lions coach Matt Patricia said.
Guard Ronald Leary will miss his third straight game for Denver (5-9) because of a brain injury.
Contact Dave Birkett at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.