ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions officially signed kicker David Akers on Tuesday and bid farewell to Jason Hanson.
The team didn’t disclose terms of the contract Tuesday. Akers and the Lions agreed to a deal last week, a day after Hanson announced his retirement.
The 38-year-old Akers was released last month by the San Francisco 49ers after he followed up a record-breaking season with shaky results. The four-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl kicker made just 29 of 44 field goals last year after setting single-season league records with 44 field goals made and 52 attempted in 2011. Akers has made 367 of 453 field goals in his career with Washington, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
The 42-year-old Hanson said he is retiring primarily because of pain in his non-kicking left heel.
“I’ve played hurt and that’s just kind of the story of the NFL,” Hanson said as team executives and others gathered to say goodbye. “I thought, ‘Well, I can fight through it, I’ve done it before.’ But another side of me, this time, was really resisting the thought of doing it again, playing compromised and hurt. So, eventually you get to the point to where the team needs to make a decision, I need to make a decision and I decided that I didn’t want to play hurt anymore.”
Hanson joined the Lions in 1992, the year after they reached the NFC championship game. He played in six postseason games — all losses — and endured the team’s 0-16 performance of 2008. In 2011, the Lions made the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years.
“I was there through years of losing and saw the full stadiums, I saw the nearly-full stadiums that I believe would have been impossible anywhere else,” he said. “I believe the team is on track to give you the team that you deserve. So that will be something special when it happens.”
Hanson became the first NFL player to play 300 games with one franchise, finishing with 327. He also set an NFL record last year when he played his 21st season with the same team. Hanson made a record 52 field goals from at least 50 yards, he is third on the career scoring list at 2,150 points and third in field goals with 495. Hanson is the only player with 2,000 points for one franchise.
He thanked the Lions owners, coaches and staff and recalled kicking at Washington State for visitors who included coach Wayne Fontes.
“Thankfully, I didn’t quite get the seriousness of the situation and I kicked well. I want to thank them for taking the chance on drafting a kicker and bringing me here to the team,” he said.
H then singled out a special group of teammates for a figurative tip of the hat.
“In football, a kicker gets the glory and he gets the blame, but as every NFL kicker learns throughout his career, it’s always the holder’s fault,” he said. “But actually what you come to realize is that while you’re out there, my job is the direct result of what the snappers and the holders do. We’re a team. They are crucial to my success. Yes, I become the spokesperson and it’s my kick, but it’s our job.”
And as for sticking with a franchise that had so many bad years, Hanson said it was simple.
“This is my team, you know?” he said. “You know, our family was plugged in here and that was one of the great blessings of my career here. We can all say that we were here for 21 years, we’re plugged into the community. We lived out west for a while but we ended up back here and we’re here for the foreseeable future. So, that always seemed more rewarding than walking away.”
Team President Tom Lewand, team vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. and coach Jim Schwartz all praised Hanson.
“One of the things I’ve always admired about Jason was a lot of kickers run at the returner and then making a show of diving at their feet never quite getting there,” Ford said. “Not Jason, he would go full speed into the person and either take him down or drive him out of bounds and lead with his shoulder and he did it time and time again. He didn’t have to. He was already an All-Pro kicker. But that was the kind of leadership that I will always remember from him.”
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