Burleson says he's still at the top of his game

Posted May 14, 2012

The Lions drafted wide receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round of this year's draft to play the slot receiver position and become another explosive weapon in their offense.

That position is currently held by veteran Nate Burleson, though, who isn't quite ready to give it up yet.

"I think the biggest motivational factor for me is that as I get a little bit older each year; every player that comes in gets a little bit younger. That's the nature of the game," Burleson said in an interview on Sirius NFL Radio.

"So, in order for me to continue to play and continue to be asked to be a part of the team and continue to get paid a lot of money to play such a great sport, I'm going to have to prove I can compete with these young guys and that they're going to have to catch up with me."

The Lions signed Burleson to a five-year, $25 million free agent contract before the 2010 season. He caught a career-high 73 passes last season for 757 yards and three touchdowns. Burleson, 31, who's entering his 10th NFL season, even restructured his contract this offseason to help the Lions get under the salary cap.

The Lions drafted receiver Titus Young in the second round of last year's draft, and now with Broyles in the mix, they've gotten a lot younger at the position in a matter of just two drafts. But that hasn't fazed Burleson, who's expecting a career year in 2012.

"Last year was the most catches I've had in my career, so I want to shoot for the most yards I've ever had in my career this year," he said.

"It's tough because you don't want to make your goals too lofty because you're playing with Calvin Johnson and you have a huge supporting cast of offensive weapons. I want to tighten down the differential of how many balls are thrown to me and how many I catch."

If Broyles is 100-percent healthy from offseason ACL surgery to begin the season, he'll most certainly take some opportunities away from Burleson. Nonetheless, Burleson thinks the young players will still be trying to catch up with him when they all get on the field together.

"The day I'm sitting here trying to catch up with a young guy they bring in, that's when I'll understand I'm not the player I used to be," Burleson said.

"But when I'm out there working, lifting and running and doing what I do each day and these guys are following my lead and they are telling me 'you're looking good' and 'you're looking fast and strong', I'm really still at the top of my game."