Hanson's return will force Rayner to consider options

Jason Hanson will not be able to kick forever for the Detroit Lions.

But he’s a good bet to be the man this season – and he’s under contract through 2012.

So that leaves veteran Dave Rayner in a position where nothing is certain. He filled in for Hanson during the second half of last season as a knee injury sidelined one of the team’s more popular players. Hanson, who turned 41 earlier this week and is preparing for his 20th NFL season, is kicking again and ready to go, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

That means Rayner, who will be an unrestricted free agent, can sign with the Lions and see what happens or look for a better option elsewhere. He’s a Michigan native who played at Michigan State, so staying at home would be preferable.

I haven't" thought about it," Rayner told Birkett. "I think what I did last year definitely will help me, whether I'm here or not. I don't think I'm going to have a hard time finding a job, I would say. Not being arrogant about it, but saying that I did enough last year and I played in the league enough that I would love to be here, but at the same time I think I'm in the shape right now where I could go win a job wherever something calls.”

Rayner performed well for the Lions and made 13 of 16 field goals. But a healthy Hanson figures to be the man in Detroit.

“I would love to be here, obviously," Rayner said. "I'm going to have a little to do with it, but a lot of it's more Jason and management, stuff like that. I can't think about that. I'm just going to go in and do what I can do.”

What’s really amazing here is that since 1980 – with the exception of some very small windows here and there – the Lions have used two kickers – Hanson and Eddie Murray, who went on to bounce around the league for another decade after Hanson took over in Motown.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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