Monday, Dec 05, 2016
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2 punters vie for position at Lions' training camp

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions opened training camp with few questions on their special teams.

Jason Hanson is getting ready for a 21st season as the kicker and long snapper Don Muhlbach and return specialist Stefan Logan also appear ready to resume their duties in the new season.

That's hardly the case for the pair of punters who opened camp.

Ryan Donahue earned the job last season as a rookie but a quadriceps injury midway through the season opened the door for veteran Ben Graham.

The duo has split most of the duty so far in camp and during the Lions' two exhibition games and both know only one man will get the job.

"You're expected to play at the highest level all the time and the competition makes it better and it makes you better as a punter," Donahue said Sunday.

The two men are competing for the same position but that's where the similarity ends. Graham, 38, is 14 years older and broke into the NFL from Australia in 2005.

He earned the job with the Jets and played his first three seasons there, but didn't find another full-time home until 2009, when he made the team in Arizona.

He played two full seasons there and a single game in 2011 before the Lions signed him to replace Donahue.

Donahue was a rookie out of Iowa last summer but unseated veteran Nick Harris by the end of camp. He averaged almost 43 yards per punt and had four touchbacks in the first eight games, but suffered the injury during the team's bye week and never returned.

Even though they know only one of them will be around when the Lions trim the roster to 53 players, both said the mood is hardly adversarial.

"Me and Ben have a great relationship," Donahue said. "He's had a lot of life experience and I look up to him. I'm starting to rugby punt the way he does every time. It's a lot like last year. I wasn't just competing with Nick; I learned immensely from him."

Donahue has averaged 41 net yards on six tries during the preseason while Graham is averaging 28.1 net yards on seven punts.

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