NOTE­BOOK New punter in hurry-up mode

Locke signed with team Tues­day, will start Mon­day night

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY JAMES HAWKINS AND JUSTIN ROGERS The Detroit News

Allen Park — Shortly af­ter Lions punter Kasey Red­fern was knocked out of last week­end’s sea­son opener with an in­jury, Jeff Locke got a text from his agent Justin Schul­man.

The mes­sage ready.

But at the time, Locke wasn’t ex­actly sure what Schul­man was re­fer­ring to.

“I wasn’t watch­ing foot­ball, ac­tu­ally,” Locke said Thurs­day. “I was out do­ing some­thing else and then I think (Schul­man) called me and said, ‘Check Twit­ter. Type in Red­fern.’ And I did and I was like, ‘Frick.’

“Kasey is a great guy, be­cause we had joint prac­tice with Indy (Colts) when I was there this off­sea­son, so I got to talk to Kasey for a while. It sucked to see it.”

From that point on, the process moved quickly. Locke flew into Detroit from Los An­ge­les on Mon­day morn­ing and signed with the Lions on Tues­day, the same day Red­fern was placed on in­jured re­serve with a sea­so­nend­ing knee in­jury.

Locke said he worked with long snap­per Don Muhlbach and kicker Matt Prater for the first time Wed­nes­day to be­gin build­ing their chem­istry and get­ting their tim­ing down ahead of Mon­day night’s game against the New York Giants (8:30 p.m./ESPN). The trio had their first live ses­sion on Thurs­day.

“It’s just go­ing to take some reps,” Locke said.

“Luck­ily, we have that week to get ahead of it.”





Locke said he ex­pects to han­dle the kickoff and holder du­ties, too, and Lions coach Jim Cald­well said that will “more than likely” be the case.

That means Locke will have a short time to get used to han­dling and get­ting down Muhlbach’s fast­ball snaps on field-goal at­tempts.

“They (my hands) don’t hurt yet but you got to think about clos­ing them a lit­tle sooner with Don,” Locke said. “That thing hums back. I’ve al­ways known it hums back from scout­ing him in Min­nesota so long.”

Cald­well said he’s con­fi­dent Locke, Muhlbach and Prater will have enough time to work ev­ery­thing out and get on the same page.

Locke agreed it can be learned in a week.

But he noted spe­cial teams — par­tic­u­larly punt­ing — is “as com­pli­cated” as what the of­fense and de­fense does be­cause there needs to be a rap­port be­tween the punter and the gunners.

“I’m just get­ting to know them,” Locke said of the gunners. “(Don Carey) is def­i­nitely some­one I can talk to right away and kind of get the feel how they op­er­ate. He’ll be able to kind of see what I do and trans­late that to the younger gunners so they kind of know what to do, too.

“The di­rec­tional game is huge now in punt­ing. You need to be on the same page with your gunners, so they know where the ball is go­ing to be or where they should ex­pect it to be. The gunners are re­ally your best friend as a punter.”

Prior to sign­ing with the Lions, Locke, 27, spent the past four sea­sons with the Vik­ings and av­er­aged 43.2 yards per punt. He signed with the Colts in the off­sea­son but was beat out by rookie Rigob­erto Sanchez for the job.

Locke was se­lected with the No. 155 over­all pick by the Vik­ings in the 2013 draft — 10 picks ahead of Lions punter Sam Martin, who is on the non-foot­ball in­jury list af­ter suf­fer­ing an an­kle in­jury be­tween the team’s manda­tory mini­camp and train­ing camp over the sum­mer. Martin, who av­er­aged 48.5 yards per punt last sea­son, is el­i­gi­ble to re­turn for Detroit’s Week 8 matchup against the Steel­ers.

“It’s just kind of funny how the paths work,” Locke said. “Ev­ery­one takes a lit­tle dif­fer­ent path and how things work out, but I’m very lucky that I’m close to Sam and know him well, where I can come in here and he’s go­ing to show me the ropes be­cause all he wants is to see this team win while he’s out. He wants to try and help me as much as he can.”

Fin­ger in­juries

The last time the Lions played the Giants, quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford played with a cus­tom, sin­gle-fin­ger glove to pro­tect a bro­ken fin­ger on his throw­ing hand.

Wide re­ceiver Golden Tate doesn’t ex­pect to need such ex­trav­a­gances when the team plays the Giants on Mon­day night.

Tate suf­fered a fin­ger in­jury in the team’s sea­son-open­ing win last Sun­day, when a Stafford fast­ball ric­o­cheted off his fin­ger­tips.

Tate briefly left the game to get his left ring fin­ger taped, but he con­firmed Thurs­day there’s no break.

“My hand feels great,” Tate said. “I’ve been catch­ing with it great. It just feels good.”

That’s a, par­don the pun, break for the Lions. Tate was the team’s lead­ing re­ceiver last year, and set the pace in Week 1 with 10 grabs for 107 yards.

Sarah Warnock/As­so­ci­ated Press

For­mer In­di­anapo­lis Colts punter Jeff Locke will re­place Kasey Red­fern, who was hurt in the sea­son opener.

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