NFL: Hanson a bright spot for lowly Detroit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 25, 2008

By Larry Lage
Associated Press
ALLEN PARK, Mich. ó The winless Detroit Lions don’t have much to be proud about.
Jason Hanson is an exception.
He has made an NFL-high 95.5 percent of his field goals, a record 41 kicks from 50-plus yards during his career, and no one in league history has been more accurate on shorter field goals.
Hanson, though, doesn’t earn much praise because the Lions are the NFL’s first 0-15 team and are 31-96 since 2001 in what has been the league’s worst eight-season stretch in more than a half-century.
“I’ve won only 31 games here, but I can say I’m playing with a Hall of Famer because he’s a teammate,” center Dominic Raiola said. “His resume speaks for itself.”
Hanson’s only miss this season was blocked. His eighth 50-yard kick ó in as many attempts ó earlier this month at Indianapolis broke Morten Andersen’s career record.
He’s made 87.1 percent of his kicks inside the 50, leading all kickers with at least 250 attempts.
The 17-year veteran has made 406 field goals, trailing just five kickers in the record books, since Detroit selected him out of Washington State in the second round of the 1996 draft.
But his second and last Pro Bowl appearance was in 2000 because he’s been stuck with playing for the lowly Lions.
“Of course you think, `Would it have been different if I had gone to a high-profile team like Dallas, Pittsburgh or New England’?” the 38-year-old Hanson said. “But the special teams coaches, snappers and holders I’ve had here have helped me have the career I’ve had.
“My contract is up this year and they’ve started talking about a new deal. I want to stay here. I’ve been here so long, I want to finish in Detroit. I’d hate to leave, but you never know what’s going to happen business-wise.”
Hanson said his most memorable kick was in 2002, when he made a winner in overtime to beat the Chicago Bears and had just enough time to board a plane and fly to Washington to witness the birth of his youngest of three children.
He begrudgingly acknowledged if he makes a winning kick Sunday at Green Bay, it would rank No. 1 professionally because the Lions would avoid the stigma of being the NFL’s first team to go winless since the schedule expanded three decades ago.
“It would be momentous,” Hanson said. “Of course, no one wants to be 0-16.
“But I don’t want to be thinking, ‘Oh man, the whole world is on my shoulders.’ I don’t want to be worrying about that when I’m lining up to kick.”