A healthy Nate Burleson is good news for Lions offense

Posted Jun 30, 2013

After suffering a season-ending injury in 2012, Burleson has worked diligently to get back on the field

Nate Burleson was a guest host on Sirius NFL Radio this week. During one particular segment, the Lions veteran receiver said that when he sees other teams around the league succeeding year-after-year it makes him feel like he's not doing his part.

Burleson signed with the Lions as a free agent in 2010 and caught 55 and 73 passes, respectively, his first two seasons with the team.

Nate BurlesonWR Nate Burleson

He was on his way to another 50-plus-catch performance last year before a broken leg suffered in Chicago Week 7 ended his season after just six games.

Suddenly, the Lions were without their most veteran receiver and one of their more versatile, too. Burleson was forced to watch the Lions flounder the rest of the season.

Burleson wasn't able to do his part last year and it ate at him. It's one of the reasons he's worked so hard to get back onto the field this offseason.

His strength is that he can play all three receiver positions in the Lions offense and he's a reliable target at each of those positions for quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions missed that the second half of the season last year, especially after Ryan Broyles went down with an ACL six weeks later.

The receiver position was one of the hardest hit by injury last season, after going relatively unscathed the year prior. Include the suspension and ultimate dismissal of Titus Young, and the last season was a tough year for receivers not named Calvin Johnson.

But 2013 is a new season and both Burleson and Broyles are way ahead of schedule in their rehab. Both are also expected to be ready to roll come Week 1 vs. Minnesota.

"He's a quick healer, man," Stafford said of Burleson. "Really from Day 1 of OTAs (he) has come on and looked really good. He couldn't do the quantity as he can now. Now, he's full go all the time and is ready to go.

"He looks great and that's been a big plus for us having him healthy going into this offseason. It helps us keep our stride."

That's good news for a Lions offense which, if healthy, could possess one of the largest collections of offensive weapons in the NFL.

"He means a lot to our football team," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of his 11-year veteran receiver.

"It's important to have him out there for our offense for a lot of reasons. Number one he's a good player, he brings something to the equation that goes beyond what his playing ability is.

"He still probably isn't 100-percent, but a lot of guys aren't 100-percent right now, but he's able to do able to do what he can out there and it's a good time of year."

Burleson said that once training camp starts at the end of July he should be 100 percent with no restrictions.

He's likely to see his targets decrease from seasons past with the emergence of Broyles and the addition of Reggie Bush.

But that's okay by Burleson.

He restructured his contract this offseason so the Lions could have more money to pursue free agent targets like Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones.

Burleson knows he closer to the end of his career than the beginning and wants his last few seasons to see the same kind of success he's watched other NFC teams have year-after-year.