Burleson: 'I'm fine with having to prove my worth again'

Posted Nov 7, 2012

Receiver Nate Burleson knows all too well the harsh realities of being an injured player.

When one player goes down, the opportunity presents itself for another to step into his place. It's just the reality of the NFL.

In Burleson’s case, a tibia fracture suffered in Chicago Week 7 has put him on the reserve/injured list and opened the door for second-year receiver Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles to make more plays and show coaches what they can do.

Young and Broyles have combined for 29 receptions and 331 yards with four touchdowns over the last three games. Broyles, who's been manning the slot in Burleson's absence, has 12 catches and two touchdowns including the Chicago game.

“I’m happy for the young guys,” Burleson said while propping himself up on his crutches in from of his locker Wednesday. “They are in a good position. I told them me being injured is a great time for those guys to solidify themselves as great receivers.

“Just being realistic, that’s what the game is about. It’s about stepping up when people go down.”

Burleson was in the same position back in 2004 with the Vikings.

“Me and Marcus Robinson were battling for the (spot) opposite Randy Moss and I remember him telling me, ‘I’m not going to knock you and I’m not going to pull you down. I’ll always be there.’

“I thought to myself, ‘If he can do that, I’m never going to cheat the game and be a selfish (player). I’m always going to give the guys the tools they need even if it puts me in a position that makes me uncomfortable.”

In just his second season, Burleson emerged from that competition with the veteran Robinson, and when Moss was limited with a hamstring injury that season, Burleson stepped up and had one of his finest season as a pro with 68 catches for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns.

“I’m going to give back to the game what it gave me and that’s to help these guys do whatever they can to have longevity in their careers,” Burleson said of Young and Broyles.

It’s a tough spot for a veteran player to be in. Burleson, 31, has two more seasons left on the 5-year, $25 million deal he signed with the Lions in 2010. But he also knows the Lions drafted two very capable receivers in Young and Broyles the last two drafts.

“With them balling out completely, it could leave me the odd man out,” Burleson admitted. “That’s just a reality of the game. Once I heal up, I’m going to come back at a high level and if my spot is secure on this team then I’m going to continue to do what I do and lead.

"If not, hopefully, I prepped the young guys to be in a position where they can easily take my place.”

Burleson isn’t going to just relinquish his spot without a fight, though. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I’ve been able to benefit from a guy going down, so I understand,” he said. “I’m fine with having to prove my worth again. I’m fine with having to go out there and show people that I’m one of the best compliments to Calvin Johnson there is. That’s the name of the game and it’s a harsh reality.”