Lions Insider: Hanson’s NFL career still alive and kicking

Allen Park — Jason Hanson doesn’t show many signs of age, which is a gigantic accomplishment for anyone about to enter his 19th season with the Detroit Lions.

At the very least, he should have a frown wrinkle or two.

Hanson is as lean and trim as his first day of training camp in 1992, when he was the Lions’ second-round draft pick out of Washington State. His face doesn’t have a hint of crow’s feet.

The only evidence that Hanson is aging comes from two bandages on either side of his left knee. They protect two small holes, which were the entry points for arthroscopic surgery performed on Tuesday to repair torn cartilage.

If Hanson’s knee recovers as expected, and a certain quarterback — (hint, his name is Brett Favre) — decides to retire and not play for the Minnesota Vikings, Hanson, 40, could be the senior active member of the NFC North.

Hanson’s immediate concern isn’t the NFC North seniority list but rehabilitating his knee in time to kick in the Lions’ regular-season opener at Chicago on Sept. 12.

Barring a setback, he doesn’t foresee a problem.

“I hope to do what I did last year — be back in time to get ready,” Hanson said Friday. “Once I get to regroup, I should be able to come back and kick well.”

Hanson can draw on some painful experience to prepare for the season. This is the second straight year that he’s had knee surgery in training camp.

Last year, he had cartilage damage on his right knee. Hanson recovered in time to kick in all 16 games. It was not one of his better years. He made 21 of 28 field-goal attempts, for 75 percent.

Although both injuries involved cartilage, the circumstances were different. Last year, Hanson felt soreness building before he had the right knee examined and underwent surgery.

This year, Hanson felt his knee give up when he was warming up for a kickoff drill. He knew something was wrong immediately.

“I kind of stumbled a little,” Hanson said. “It kind of bent to the inside.”

Hanson has been amazingly reliable and durable — even for a kicker. He has missed only one game, because of a hamstring injury in 2005.

He holds nearly every Lions kicking record and is among the best in NFL history. He is seventh on the all-time list in scoring with 1,835 points and sixth with 427 field goals made.

Despite his record, Hanson is aware that, at this stage of his career, physical breakdowns can be a sign that his body is starting to feel some wear and tear.

The two injuries were not related, and in both cases, the doctors found no other problems.

“It could be age,” Hanson said. “Both knees, the doctors say look real good. That’s good news. It’s not like there’s more in there waiting to happen.

“The belief I’ve got is, there’s no degeneration.”

Hanson is respected by his teammates for his work ethic. He has never had the label of being a free-spirit, or an eccentric kicker who remained separate from the rest of the team.

When Hanson got back to the team’s headquarters and training facility, players started “Favre-ing” him — teasing him that he was trying to get out of training camp, like Favre has done with the Vikings the last two years.

Favre has a slight lead on Hanson for seniority in the NFC North. Favre got to the division ahead of Hanson in 1992 — when it was still the NFC Central. Favre was traded from Atlanta to Green Bay on Feb. 10, 1992. The Lions drafted Hanson on April 26.

Hanson’s service is uninterrupted. After 16 seasons with the Packers, Favre was traded to the Jets in 2008. He retired — again — after that season but returned to play for the Vikings in 2009.

Hanson qualifies any claim for seniority over Favre “because you’re the kicker.”
Saturday night lights

Coach Jim Schwartz plans to have the team in full pads for the “Lions Uncaged” practice at Ford Field on Saturday afternoon.

Gates open at 3 p.m. Practice starts at 4.

It will be a regular training-camp format, with some minor changes and additions for the public.

Having one practice at the Lions’ home stadium has some benefit, Schwartz said.

“I think it’s important to be in the stadium, particularly for some of the young players,” Schwartz said. “The practice will be exactly the same as if we would have practiced here.”
Personnel department

Rookie safety Randy Phillips, re-signed earlier in the week after Marquand Manuel was released, has taken Louis Delmas’ spot as a No. 1 safety while Delmas recovers from a groin injury. If Delmas were healthy, he and C.C. Brown would be the starting safeties.

Phillips was with the Lions in the off-season. He was released and signed back.

Defensive linemen Jared DeVries and Kyle Vanden Bosch were given the morning practice off Friday to rest. DeVries has some soreness in his lower right leg. He is coming back from a torn Achilles that sidelined him for all of 2009.

Aug. 6, 2010