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Lions coach Schwartz likes play of special teams

August 11, 2013

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit coach Jim Schwartz liked the play of his special teams in the Lions first preseason game.

Schwartz especially praised the punt team after the 26-17 win Friday night over the New York Jets.

The Lions rookie punters averaged 43.5 yards in splitting six kicks and each landed one inside the 20-yard line. The Jets returned only two for a combined 19 yards.

Sam Martin, a fifth-round selection in the NFL draft, also kicked off three times in the first half. His performance included a 54-yarder on his first attempt.

“I thought I had been hitting the ball pretty good in practice,” Martin said Sunday. “To go out there and take the pressure off my shoulders and start like that, I felt a lot more comfortable and relaxed.”

Blake Clingan is in camp with Detroit, which used punter Nick Harris for most of last season.

It’s not certain if Martin will still be used for kickoffs — he’s been filling in while placekicker David Akers recovers from groin surgery — but the rookie won’t mind.

“I would love to,” Martin said. “I like kicking off.”

Martin had 45 touchbacks on 70 kickoffs during his senior season at Appalachian State and was a Football Championship Subdivision All-America selection. He averaged 45.9 yards per punt and made seven of 10 field-goal tries.

Schwartz also noted the performance of the coverage unit, which got a boost from several long kicks.

“It’s a lot easier to cover when they’re hitting the roof with those punts and kickoffs,” he said. “It gave guys time to get down there and cover.

“We were in the bottom in just about every kickoff category from last year from kicking, touchbacks and depth and things like that. Same with the punter. It looks like we’ll be much improved in both of those positions.”

The Lions travel to Cleveland on Thursday and open the regular season Sept. 8 at home against Minnesota.

Notes: The Lions signed cornerback Myron Lewis on Sunday and he was on the field with the team. Lewis played eight games and had six tackles last season with Tampa Bay but was waived on Thursday. “Sometimes things just don’t work out,” the 2010 third-round selection said. “To have a fresh opportunity and clean slate is great.” His arrival adds depth to a secondary that was missing three cornerbacks and safety Louis Delmas for Friday’s preseason opener. . Some players appeared to slip on the new artificial surface at Ford Field during the opener, but Schwartz wasn’t concerned. He said he doubts the turf will be an issue once the rubber crumbs settle on the field. . Receiver Nate Burleson wore braids when camp opened but his hair was closely cropped when he took the field Friday night. A poll of 12 teammates prompted him to visit a barber.

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