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Tavecchio has rough day in kicking battle

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- One stepped off the field feeling like the NFL was somewhat close to his college experience and the other walked off probably wishing he could head back to college.

This is life when there are two men fighting for one spot on an NFL roster, especially at kicker, where rookie Nate Freese and veteran Giorgio Tavecchio are battling to become the Detroit Lions' starting kicker -- and likely only kicker on the roster.

Freese made his field goals Tuesday during the first day of mandatory minicamp. Tavecchio had a rougher day, shanking one field goal and missing at least one other. Tavecchio, who spent last training camp with the Green Bay Packers before getting cut, had been working on angle techniques. He thought it would work well.

It didn't.

"I just, a couple thoughts about angle of foot at contact was something I was working on," Tavecchio said after practice Tuesday. "Warm-up was fine, but it didn't translate well, like I said.

"I'm furious, because that was probably my worst day in my professional life, but, but, the show must go on. Keep working and keep moving forward."

That's how Tavecchio -- and Freese -- have to think. Earlier this spring, Freese had a rough day while Tavecchio was perfect. It has led to a fairly close contest thus far, one that likely won't be decided until training camp in August.

Other than Tuesday, Tavecchio was happy with how his offseason was going. He felt he was striking the ball well and making good contact. In open practices, he has displayed more leg strength than Freese, who the Lions selected in the seventh round of May's draft.

While Tavecchio has been through offseasons in the NFL and training camps before -- although he's never kicked in a regular-season game -- it is Freese who seems at least equally as comfortable. He even compared it more to his experience at Boston College.

"I figured I'd be a little bit intimidated by all these guys," Freese said. "But everyone has been so great and helpful and always trying to help me out. It's been awesome."

Freese said long snapper Don Muhlbach and punter Sam Martin, who was a rookie a season ago, told him to focus on his steps and his form and to not worry about anything else. Freese, who did not miss a field goal his senior year with the Eagles, said that helped.

It might also help that since the Lions invested a draft pick in Freese, Tavecchio might have to be markedly better than him to win the job, although he admitted it was "devastating" to have a rough day in the middle of what appears to be a tight competition.

He knows if he wants a shot at the gig, though, he can't let it bother him. He just needs to keep kicking how he was before Tuesday.

"I can't speak to what the coaches expect, but I can only speak to the way I approach everything and I take it as if every day is a challenge," Tavecchio said. "Every day is an opportunity to go out there and compete and that's what I do to the best of my abilities.

"(Tuesday) there was no lack of preparation. I was confident. I was prepared. It was just a bit of an off day. Keep moving forward."