ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – In Matt Prater’s mind, if it’s just about football, the kicking job for the Denver Broncos is his.
Prater is having a solid camp after missing the last month of last season with a pulled right groin that opened the door for Steven Hauschka, who is also competing for the Broncos’ kicking job this summer.
“I know when I’m kicking like I can, nobody’s going to be able to kick farther and higher than me, and there’s not a field goal I shouldn’t make when I go out to line up for one,” said Prater, who’s 4-for-4 on field goal attempts this preseason.
Prater said he’s very close to being at top form after an offseason spent at home in Florida rehabbing and working out with his youngest brother, Mason, a junior kicker at Webber International University.
“So, it feels better than it ever has,” he said of his right leg, which has made him the most accurate kicker in Broncos history — he’s made 71 of 87 kicks in his four seasons in Denver for a .816 percentage.
Prater’s biggest splash this summer, however, came in a police report when he was charged with drunken driving and fleeing the scene of an accident on Aug. 2 in Greenwood Village, near the team’s training complex.
According to police reports, Prater told officers, “I really messed up. I’m going to lose my job.”
He was chastised after his arrest by the Broncos, who said they were disappointed in his poor judgment and said the matter was addressed with the team and “continues to be thoroughly reviewed internally.”
Prater, who is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 5, declined to address his legal issues Wednesday, when he said he’s healthy again, stronger than ever and wants to make the Pro Bowl and sign a long-term extension in Denver this season.
The fifth-year pro from Central Florida signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal as a restricted free agent this summer.
He’s in line to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, but said he doesn’t want to test the open market.
“I’d rather just line up something here and stay here,” he said, “because I want to play here my whole career. I love it out here. I like the field, fans and everything about this place and I know everybody in the organization from top to bottom, so I’m comfortable here.”
Normally, Prater enters each training camp with a goal in mind. In 2009, it was to make 85 percent of his field goals, and he hit 30 of 35 (85.7 percent). Last year, it was to make 90 percent, and he came up just short, converting 16 of 18 attempts (88.9 percent).
This year, he wants to be the best in the business.
He said he wants to see himself and punter Britton Colquitt, who leads the league this summer in punting with a 53.3-yard average, make it to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
“I just think it’s a big year for me this year. I’m on a one-year deal and it’s a goal I set for myself,” Prater said. “I’ve never set that goal before. You know, you want to win obviously. But kicking is a little different. It’s more of an individual position almost. So, if I kick well and make it to the Pro Bowl, it helps out the team obviously.”
He never had that ambition before.
“I never really thought about it too much,” Prater said. “I’ve set goals in the past, like I’ve said I want to be 85 percent. Last year, I wanted to be 90 percent and I barely didn’t get it. But this year, I didn’t set a percentage goal. I want to make everything.”
By AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)