ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Derek Dimke makes Jason Hanson feel old.
Dimke, a rookie kicker in the Detroit Lions’ camp, was in diapers the first time Hanson put on a NFL uniform.
Hanson, entering his 21st season in the league, made his debut with the Lions in 1992. Dimke was 2 years old.
It’s no wonder that Dimke felt like he had to call Hanson “Sir” when he first met him.
“I was getting real irritated with that,” Hanson said. “I was like ‘Dude, knock it off. … don’t call me that’
“I think he actually meant it. I started wearing my hat again so he couldn’t see my bald head.”
Hanson, 42, is the consummate pro. He was often the lone positive during the Lions’ dark days as an organization (0-16 in 2008), but now he has a chance to finish on top with a club that’s shooting for a Super Bowl in the near future.
Many kickers lose their range toward the end of their career, but Hanson made 5 of 7 field goals from 50-plus yards last year. It was the second-most he’s made from 50-plus in a season behind only his 8-for-8 performance four years ago.
In Hanson’s case, he just wants to hear people continue to say, “He’s the same.”
“If ever that day comes where it’s not, maybe I’ll be fishing in the fall,” he said. “But it’s not going to be this year.
“That’s always been my goal, to make sure I can still kick like I always have.”
Hanson made 24 of 29 attempts overall last year (82.8 percent). For his career, he is 463 of 565 (81.9 percent).
Few kickers in league history have ever deserved to go out a winner more than Hanson.
“You don’t want to screw it up,” he said. “We’re going to be good. You want to be part of that. You don’t want to be somebody who gets in the way.
“There’s always that pressure. There’s no coasting whatsoever.”
Coach Jim Schwartz calls Hanson “an incredibly durable, reliable kicker that’s gone for a long time.
“We have confidence whenever we put him on the field.”
Nevertheless, Hanson takes the approach that his performance always has to live up to the “what can you do for me today?” question.
For two decades, the answer has always been favorable.
But just how many more kicks can he realistically have in his powerful right leg?
Hanson, who is 6-foot, 190 pounds, would clearly like to leave the game on his own terms, but the longer he stays, the more that longevity factor gets seriously challenged.
“Everybody says let them kick you out,” Hanson, who has played his entire career with Detroit, said when asked about retirement plans. “I don’t think that would feel very good.
“You’ve got to weigh the two. I’m ready to play this year. That’s all I’m worried about right now.”
As for Dimke, he completely idolizes Hanson.
Dimke, 22, is an undrafted free agent who played in college at Illinois, where he became the most accurate field-goal kicker in school history (39 of 46, 84.8 percent).
It’s a thrill for him just to have a locker next to Hanson.
“He’s a great role model,” Dimke said. “Really, there’s no one else I’d want to be learning from. I grew up watching him. To be here and be out on the field every day watching him, is an honor.”
Despite all that respect, Dimke has finally stopped referring to Hanson as “Sir.”
“I’m trying not to,” he said. “I broke that habit. He got mad a couple times.
“No ‘Sirs’ anymore.”
General manager Martin Mayhew, on running back Jahvid Best not being cleared yet for contact because of last season’s concussions: “I’m a little bit surprised, little bit disappointed. Everything was trending toward him being ready to go the first day of training camp.
“Eventually, he will get cleared. I feel very positive and I feel very comfortable saying that. It’s just the question of the timing.”
… Mayhew, on defensive end Cliff Avril, who hasn’t signed his one-year franchise tender and remains a no-show at camp after failing to reach a long-term contract agreement: “We made a very solid offer to him. He was willing to bet on himself and bet he’s going to outperform what was on the table, and I like that.”
… Cornerback Jacob Lacey didn’t practice Tuesday after banging a knee in Monday’s session. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) returned for the first part of practice. He sat out Monday for precautionary reasons, according to Schwartz.