Akers being pushed by Rugland for Lions vacancy?
How could David Akers think anything other than believing that he had the inside track to the vacant Detroit Lions kicking spot? After all, his competition is a Norwegian with no prior NFL experience and the somewhat gaudy nickname of “Kickalicious”. But Akers hasn’t kicked too many footballs during the Lions’ offseason workouts while he rehabs an injury that occurred in early 2012, upon which he lays at least partial blame for last season’s accuracy and distance problems. Those are some of the contributing factors that got San Francisco to wave bye-bye and caused him to land here in Detroit. The Lions cautiously signed him to a one year contract; Akers went under the knife again for groin surgery early this year. That rehab is going deliberately as well.
Meantime, Havard Rugland, the Norwegian You Tube kicking sensation has been quietly going about his business, learning the game, intensely studious in his education and all the while effortlessly drilling 50-plus yard field goals through the uprights in every situation he has been asked to handle. Not one to throw huge bouquets, Head Coach Jim Schwartz was mildly complimentary when asked about Rugland’s progress. “He’s passed all tests” was Schwartz’s comment when asked about the young man’s work. Impressive for a kicker who hasn’t been in any organized US football program at any level, much less the NFL.
Rugland’s rapid progress may be putting some pressure on Akers, and the latter may not directly state that he feels it, but squeezed by his injury rehab on one side and the supersonic improvement being shown by his competition on the other, things could get dicey for the veteran in training camp. Akers, through his kicking, needs to directly make a statement in regard to his preparedness to play a 16 game or longer season, while demonstrating that the power and accuracy that failed him last year are back and superior to anything the rookie can put on the field. That alone may be easier said than done.
For Rugland’s part, he needs to show that he understands and can apply the finer points of the game such as putting the ball on a proper trajectory to avoid tips and blocks while kicking under pressure; the kind of pressure that can only come with angry men bearing down on him and a game on the line, the latter of which seems to be the Lions’ standard method of operation for many contests. If he can do that, the distance between rookie and veteran may disintegrate quickly.
Anyone can say what they like, however the rest of the team can’t help but take notice, not only of Aker’s rehab, but also of the rookie’s abilities. Confidence and trust builds one way or the other with these things and gauging that at the end of training camp will be an interesting task. Apart from the battles shaping up at right tackle and the outside linebacker spot, the best training camp entertainment ought to come when Akers and Rugland take the field and tangle for that vacant kicking spot.
Earl Richmond is a long-suffering Detroit Lions fan and division writer for TPF. He can be reached at ERichmond@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com