NOTEBOOK New punter in hurry-up mode
Locke signed with team Tuesday, will start Monday night
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.”
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.
Former Indianapolis Colts punter Jeff Locke will replace Kasey Redfern, who was hurt in the season opener.