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Originally published: 2013-07-06 17:20:17
Last modified: 2013-07-06 17:21:01

Help is on the way

The Detroit Lions drafted Sam Martin with one thing in mind -- improve the team's woeful punting game.
Martin, who was one of the top punters in college football at Appalachian State in 2012, was selected by the Lions in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft. Teams that don't have a need for special teams players generally don't draft punters or kickers.
That was not the case with the Lions, who were last in the NFL in gross punting average at 41.4 yards per kick.
They were also tied with the Eagles for 30th in net average with 36.9 and 22nd in punts inside the 40.
Martin knows that eyes will be on him when he takes the field. The Lions released their punter from last year, which leaves them with just two punters on the current roster.
Neither has played in an NFL game.
Despite the expectations, Martin feels ready to step in and fill the void.
"I guess you could look at it that way, but I don't look at it like that," Martin said. "It's a great situation for me as far as I'm going to be able to contribute to the team right away."
Detroit's kicking game is not completely void of talent. Long snapper Don Muhlbach made the Pro Bowl last season.
"I'm lucky. I've got a Pro Bowl long snapper," Martin said. "He makes life a little easier. The ball gets back there extremely fast."
Martin's main competition for the punter's position so far is free agent Blake Clingan. Martin has also been asked to hold on place kicks, but the only healthy kicker in the OTAs was free agent Havard Rugland, a Norwegian native who is known for his trick field goal kicks that were shown on the Internet.
The Lions also signed longtime veteran kicker David Akers, who is coming off of groin surgery done in January. Martin may be asked to kick off by the Lions if Akers is limited to kicking extra points and field goals.
"I kicked off in the last couple of days and I thought I did pretty well," Martin said. "That's all still up in the air."
Martin said it didn't really matter who picked him on draft day as long as he was drafted.
"I didn't care who picked me," Martin said. "If Alaska had a team, I would go there. I'm glad it's Detroit. There were a few teams that talked to me who were higher on their lists than others and Detroit was one of them."
Martin is also not worried about the Lions' past problems. They became the first team to go 0-16 in one season in 2008, but improved to 10-6 in 2011.
They did not make the playoffs that season, and slipped to 4-12 in 2012 after going 4-4 in their first eight games. Martin sees those days in the past, and looks forward winning the punting job this season.
"That doesn't matter. I feel confident," Martin said. "You've got to understand the culture, so every day, I'm fighting for a job. It's a mindset that you have to have."
Martin also is reminded of Appalachian State's victory over Michigan in 2007, though he was not on the team.
"I can't go anywhere without people talking about it," Martin said. "Any time I say I'm from Appalachian State, there is somebody around who is from Michigan."
Martin reports to training camp on July 25.