Offseason will be Significant for Lions' Health

Posted Jan 4, 2010

The offseason will be a significant one for the Lions when it comes to rehab.

Three starters – Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew and Kevin Smith – are all rehabbing after recent knee surgeries. Stafford’s was a minor surgery while Pettigrew and Smith had surgery to repair torn ACLs.

“Obviously (I’ve) got a big offseason for me because, clearly, I’m hurt,” said Pettigrew on Monday. “I have to rehab the knee. A whole lot is going to go into that, so I will be here the whole time pretty much rehabbing, getting my body right, getting my knee right.”

Pettigrew is part of a nucleus of players acquired in the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford, safety Louis Delmas and linebacker DeAndre Levy are the other top picks in that group.

“It was a good rookie year,” said Stafford. “Obviously, (we) wanted to win more games but I learned a lot and I’ll be getting healthier soon and I’ll be good to go.”

Stafford is hoping to be back in time for the offseason conditioning program, which begins mid-March, while Pettigrew is hoping to be ready in time for training camp at the end of July.

“I’m pretty sure that they’re going to be pushing me up until camp time (but) they'll probably not push me too much,” said Pettigrew of his rehab process.

Having Stafford, Pettigrew and Smith back in time to prepare for the 2010 season will be beneficial for the Lions, who will be looking to those players to produce.

All three had their production and progress marred by on-and-off injuries. Pettigrew had a hamstring injury during training camp, but was able to get back in time for the season opener. He had his ups-and-downs, but seemed to be getting things going when he suffered the knee injury on Thanksgiving Day.

“It was a frustrating season as far as me playing well,” said Pettigrew. “I started off playing pretty good and kind of midway I fell off a little bit, and then picked it back up. I think that I was just starting to feel confident in myself and then that (the knee injury) happened.”

Smith injured his shoulder in the team’s Week 3 win over Washington and battled injuries on-and-off for the remainder of the season. He suffered a knee injury at Baltimore, finishing the season with 747 rushing yards over 13 starts.

Stafford showed his abilities in Detroit’s come-from-behind win against the Cleveland Browns on November 22.

After the team fell behind 24-3, Stafford led the Lions to a win on a five-touchdown performance capped off by a score to Pettigrew on the final play of regulation. What was bittersweet about that game was a shoulder injury Stafford suffered, which held him out of the season’s last four games.

“We’ve got a good quarterback in Stafford,” said center Dominic Raiola. “We have a couple of defensive leaders out of this rookie class. As much as it is an empty feeling in here, I think brighter days are coming sooner than later.”

Rookies Delmas and Levy have stepped up for the Lions defensively. Delmas played and started in all but one game and Levy started the last two at middle linebacker for the injured Larry Foote.

The Lions will expect a lot out of both players moving forward.

“I know you can’t dismiss what we did this year, or what we didn’t do I should say, but it’s going to get better around here – especially with Jim in charge,” said Raiola. “I’m 100-percent behind what he’s doing and what he’s going to do this offseason adding pieces to the puzzle to try to complete the puzzle.”