National Football League
2 punters vying for job with Lions
National Football League

2 punters vying for job with Lions

Published Aug. 20, 2012 2:13 a.m. ET

The Detroit Lions opened training camp with few questions on their special teams.

Jason Hanson is getting ready for a 21st season as the kicker and long snapper Don Muhlbach and return specialist Stefan Logan also appear ready to resume their duties in the new season.

That's hardly the case for the pair of punters who opened camp.

Ryan Donahue earned the job last season as a rookie but a quadriceps injury midway through the season opened the door for veteran Ben Graham.


The duo has split most of the duty so far in camp and during the Lions' two exhibition games and both know only one man will get the job.

''You're expected to play at the highest level all the time and the competition makes it better and it makes you better as a punter,'' Donahue said Sunday.

The two men are competing for the same position but that's where the similarity ends.

Graham, 38, is 14 years older and broke into the NFL from Australia in 2005.

He earned the job with the Jets and played his first three seasons there, but didn't find another full-time home until 2009, when he made the team in Arizona.

He played two full seasons there and a single game in 2011 before the Lions (No. 11 in the AP Pro32) signed him to replace Donahue.

Donahue was a rookie out of Iowa last summer but unseated veteran Nick Harris by the end of camp. He averaged almost 43 yards per punt and had four touchbacks in the first eight games, but suffered the injury during the team's bye week and never returned.

Even though they know only one of them will be around when the Lions trim the roster to 53 players, both said the mood is hardly adversarial.

''Me and Ben have a great relationship,'' Donahue said. ''He's had a lot of life experience and I look up to him. I'm starting to rugby punt the way he does every time.

''It's a lot like last year. I wasn't just competing with Nick; I learned immensely from him.''

Graham, who moved his family back to an Australian city about an hour from Melbourne during last year's lockout, has been through the process of earning and trying to keep the job several times.

This season is nothing new.

''The NFL is stressful,'' he said. ''I'm used to being the guy who's still around when the season starts and you just have to approach it knowing you have to do the best you can every time.

''We're all good guys here and we're just trying to help each other and learn from each other.''

Donahue has averaged 41 net yards on six tries during the preseason while Graham is averaging 28.1 net yards on seven punts.

Hanson still is going strong at 42. He made 24 of his 29 field goal attempts last season after missing half the 2010 season with an injury.

The Lions continue their exhibition schedule Saturday at Oakland.

Notes: Logan tweaked an ankle during Friday's exhibition win at Baltimore and coach Jim Schwartz said he'll be monitored daily. Logan told reporters the injury wasn't as severe as it looked. . RB Mikel Leshoure, who's missed most of camp with a hamstring injury, fully took part in drills Sunday. He missed all of last season after Achilles tendon surgery.


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