Lions kicker Jason Hanson and safety John Wendling have been voted the Lions’ Yale Lary Special Teams Most Valuable Players.
It’s the sixth time in Hanson’s 20-year career with the Lions he’s garnered the honor and Wendling’s first.
Hanson converted 24-of-29 field goal attempts and made all 54 of his extra point attempts this season. His 66.3-yard average on kickoffs was the fifth-highest of his career.
Hanson quelled any doubts about his health in training camp when he beat out Dave Rayner for the job. Hanson missed eight games in 2010 because of a torn legitimate in his kicking leg. He came back healthy and strong this season and set a number of NFL and team records this season.
Hanson, 41, is the team’s all-time leading scorer (2,016) and became the sixth player in league history to connect on 400 field goals in a career. With a 50-yard field goal against the Chargers in a Week 16, Hanson became the first NFL kicker to have 50 50-yard field goals.
“It’s funny, I had John Kasay, 42, during my time in Carolina and there’s two guys (Hanson and Kasay) who’ve been at it for 20 years and they are similar in a lot of ways,” said Lions special teams coach Danny Crossman. “They are great players, but more importantly they take care of their bodies. They know how to prepare, they know when to pull forward, they know when to pull back and then they’ve both been unbelievably blessed.
“You look at Jason, the way he kicked the ball off this year was really, really impressive after the injuries the last couple years. We couldn’t have been happier with the season he had.”
Hanson has said he’d like to return for a 21st season in 2012 if the Lions will have him back.
Wendling filled a number of different roles in the special teams unit this year because of injuries. Wendling (6-1, 222) is at his best on the outside as a gunner with his unique blend of his size and speed, but had to play inside at times this season because of injuries.
“John has been a highly productive player and actually we had to play him in some spots early in the season where he wasn’t as productive but he did it willingly to help the team because we were short in some other spots,” Crossman said.
“But when we got rolling again and he was playing at more his natural spots he was the same productive guy he was a year ago. (He) made a lot of plays and led the team in tackles again, just like he did last year.”
Since entering the NFL in 2007, Wendling has recorded 90 special teams tackles, the most in the NFL. He had 17 this season.
“John is a true pro. He works his butt off, he does everything right, plays hard, plays physical, plays smart and is a natural leader,” Crossman said.
The award is in honor of Yale Lary, an All-Pro defensive back who was also one of the NFL’s greatest punters. Lary collected 50 career interceptions as a safety for the Lions, but also won punting titles in 1959, ’61 and ’63. Lary played in nine Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
Tags: Danny Crossman, Jason Hanson, John Wendling, Yale Lary
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