There at the bottom of the screen was a line that made him feel even more queasy:
“It said, ‘Matt Prater questionable for Super Bowl,’” the Denver Broncos kicker said with a laugh during media day Tuesday. “I was like, ‘Where is that coming from?’ It was definitely strange, but I guess for the Super Bowl, everything’s a big deal.”
Prater found that out firsthand after he missed practices from last Thursday through Saturday when he was sent home by the team so he could recover in time for this week — and not get any of his teammates sick.
“I’m feeling a lot better and I should be fine Sunday,” Prater said, showing no signs of sniffles from the flu bug that he couldn’t kick for a few days. “I mean, I wasn’t dying. I was definitely really sick and I was basically useless for four days. I felt like a truck hit me, but I would’ve still tried to play in the Super Bowl even if I was sick.”
The big-legged kicker who set an NFL record with a 64-yarder Dec. 8 in Denver wasn’t concerned about the chances of not being at full strength for the big game against Seattle. Prater kicked Monday at practice for the first time since the AFC championship game against New England.
“I didn’t feel too rusty,” Prater said.
Prater is 30-of-31 on field-goal attempts this season, including 5-for-5 in the playoffs. The only miss was a 52-yarder that was barely wide left Dec. 1 at Kansas City. The next week at Denver, he booted the record-breaker in icy conditions.
“I remember the first time he kicked a ball in front of me and it jumped off his foot, I was amazed how hard he kicked it,” said second-year long snapper Aaron Brewer. “It’s comforting to know he can kick it from anywhere.”
Prater also led the NFL with 81 touchbacks and was 12-of-12 in kickoff touchbacks in the Broncos’ two home playoff games. It will have been five weeks by the time the Super Bowl rolls around since the Broncos’ special teams unit covered a kickoff.
So, Prater’s leg strength could be a factor if he’s not ready to boom kicks out of the end zone. The site and conditions could also play a role. In the Broncos’ game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 15, five of Prater’s eight kickoffs were returned, his season-low touchback rate — and that was in 70-degree, sunny conditions with minimal wind.
The temperatures are expected to be in the 30s around kickoff Sunday.
“I feel pretty good,” Prater said. “I just need to get my bearings back a little bit. Maybe it was good to have a few days off. I’m just hoping to get completely healthy and be ready for Sunday.”
Prater plans to line up from about 65 yards out before the game, just to gauge his range. The fact MetLife Stadium has FieldTurf is a plus, too, because it provides what he called “perfect conditions” no matter the weather.
With the Broncos’ top-ranked offense going up against the Seahawks’ No. 1 defense, there’s a chance it could be a tight game that comes down to a field-goal attempt.
“We’ve done it so many times and Matt’s so good that I almost feel like there’s no pressure on me and all the pressure’s on him,” said punter Britton Colquitt, who’s also the holder on field goals. “He even says, ‘I don’t care about the laces or anything. Just put it down, and I’ll kick it.’ He’s very confident.”
And for good reason. Prater, in his seventh season with the Broncos, has converted 47 of 50 career field goals in the fourth quarter, and is 4-for-4 in overtime. He also has the best field-goal percentage from 50-plus yards (.778, 21 of 27) in league history among players with 20 or more attempts who began their careers after 1970.
Despite all those gaudy stats and clutch kicks, Prater would rather Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense make it a rout Sunday.
“It would be an awesome game if I’m just kicking extra points,” he said, laughing. “I’ll take a three-touchdown win.”