Brandon Pettigrew looking for big improvements in 2013

Posted May 22, 2013

After a disappointing 2012 season, Pettigrew's focus this offseason has been to lose weight, get back to the fundamentals and work on the parts of his game he considers his weaknesses

Brandon Pettigrew says this offseason has been all about the basics.
Brandon PettigrewTE Brandon Pettigrew (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

“Getting back to the fundamentals and trying to do things right,” he said after Wednesday’s OTA practice, the second of the 10 allotted to the team over the next three weeks.

“I’m real critical on myself. Just paying more attention to my weaknesses.”

Pettigrew, whom the Lions drafted in the first round in 2009, had arguably his worst season as a professional last year. He wasn’t fighting that observation on Wednesday, either.

“I think I definitely took a step back last year,” he said. “I was kind of dinged up a bit, but you’re still expected to make a play.

"It’s time to get back to what we built (in 2010 and 2011, when Pettigrew had 83 and 71 catches, respectively, with 1,499 combined yards).”

Pettigrew did deal with a number of nagging injuries throughout last season, including a high ankle sprain that kept him out of two games. His receptions (53) and yards (567) were considerably lower than his previous two seasons, and his three touchdowns were the lowest since his rookie season (2).

But it wasn’t the drop in production that bothered Pettigrew the most about the 2012 season; it was the increase in the negative plays -- the drops and the fumbles.

Stats, LLC credits Pettigrew with eight drops last season, which was the fourth-highest total in the NFL. He also fumbled two footballs that were particularly costly in losses to the Titans (which resulted in 72-yard touchdown return) and Texans (in overtime).

“I can’t put what I did (last year) on anyone else,” he said. “I take it upon myself to fix the drops or missed blocks, the plays that weren’t made, the fumbles. That’s on me and I take it upon myself. It’s my problem to fix.”

He says he’s dropped 10 pounds – going from 265 pounds to 255 -- in an attempt to get downfield more in the passing game and be a quicker player overall.

His focus this offseason has been to lose the weight, get back to the fundamentals and work on the parts of his game that were weaknesses.

“Coach (Bobby) Johnson told me, ‘focus on your weaknesses,’” Pettigrew said. “He told me to pay attention to my weaknesses and not what you’re already good at, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Johnson, who was hired as the team’s tight ends coach after the season, told in February that he was a stickler for the fundamentals and was hopeful he could elevate Pettigrew’s game.

It's a coaching style that might be right up Pettigrew's alley.

He has compiled 243 catches for 2,412 yards and 14 touchdowns in 57 games over his four-year career, but he’s always dealt with drops. Now, entering a contract year, there’s even more incentive to lower the drops and have a big 2013 campaign.

The Lions drafted former Alabama tight end Michael Williams (seventh-round) this offseason, plus signed former UCLA standout tight end Joseph Fauria as an undrafted free agent.

Pettigrew acknowledged how special this offense could be if he, Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford, and Calvin Johnson all play at the top of their game. Pettigrew seems to be making it his goal not to be the odd man out on that list.

He knows where he needs to get better and is making a concerted effort to improve on it. The question now is whether that will translate to Sundays in the fall.