Leshoure believes 100-percent that he will be ready for the 2012 season opener

Posted Mar 6, 2012

Running back Mikel Leshoure sat at the edge of a small indoor running pool, splashing water with his feet, getting ready to start another long day of rehab at the Lions' practice facility in Allen Park Tuesday morning.

It's been a lengthy process of surgery and rehab to get to this point for the Lions' second-round draft pick last season. However, Leshoure says he can finally see the light at the end of his tunnel to recovery.

"My body feels good," he said. "I'm going to turn it up a little bit more a month or so from now, but my body feels good. I'm getting my strength back in my calf muscle and my Achilles.

"I'm feeling pretty good when I run; I have no soreness or anything like that – no pain. I'm not full-speed sprints or cuts or anything like that, but just jogging in laps and half-gassers across the field and stuff.

"It's building up slowly and I can definitely see progress. I'm 100-percent sure I'll be ready for (season)."

Leshoure was wowing coaches, teammates and the media with his play the first two weeks of training camp last year before the course of his rookie season was abruptly changed during an Aug. 8 practice.

"Before Cliff (Avril) even stood me up, I felt like something had happened," Leshoure said reflecting back on that August day when he tore his left Achilles tendon.

"Because when I cut, I cut off my left foot behind my lead blocker and as soon as I cut, it just went out. It was like somebody shot me in my foot – the back of my heel. Then, after sitting there, feeling my foot dangling in pain, I knew it was pretty bad and that it was probably a season-ending injury.

"It was my first major injury, so I pretty much knew that I was pretty much done for the season."

Leshoure was right; he was done for the year. And when Jahvid Best suffered his second concussion two months later, the Lions running game was done, too.

Dr. Bob Anderson performed Leshoure's surgery and Leshoure says the good doctor has given him nothing but positive reports.

"Actually, Dr. Anderson, he told me that this is one of the better procedures he's had," Leshoure said."He said that it's healed perfect and right now it's all about just getting healthy and doing my rehab. He said there's definitely no major setbacks and I should be 100-percent to go."

Leshoure wanted to be sure that he clarified what "ready to go," meant. To him, that means September. Though he can't wait to get back on the field with teammates - and fans certainly can't wait to see him back on the field - he said he isn't going to rush anything. Getting back 100-percent for the regular season is his primary goal.

"We're going to take our time and do what we've got to do; there's no rush," he said. "We've got until September – first game, that's the major goal, to be ready by then, and I'm 100-percent sure I'll be ready to go first game.

"If it's feeling good, I might do some things in OTAs (organized team activities), but that's not (the goal).

"The season is the ultimate goal. Camp, OTAs – if I'm ready to roll by those things, which definitely should be ready to go by camp, but even then I'm still not sure exactly how many reps or how much work I'll get at camp, but I'll be ready to roll to do something to show people. I'll be ready to go."

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters at last week's NFL Scouting Combine that having Leshoure back for the season was the team's main goal, too.

The Lions scored the fourth-most points in the league this season, but had to rely too heavily on quarterback Matthew Stafford and the passing game. The Lions ranked 29th in rushing and all but abandoned it at times.

"I think I can make us more balanced," Leshoure said."I feel like we have a great passing game with Calvin Johnson, Titus Young and Matthew Stafford and Nate Burleson and those guys - (Brandon) Pettigrew.

"But I think when I come back that I'll make everybody else's job easier. You can't double-team Calvin Johnson all of the game and Titus and play these Cover 4 zones and stuff. You've got to honor our running game, which will make Calvin's job and Titus' job, Stafford's job a lot easier. I feel like once we're balanced out, we're going to be an explosive offense."

Leshoure traveled with the team on road trips this past season and was right there in the film room and meeting room with his teammates as they prepared for the week's opponent. He said that prep work was invaluable as a rookie and will make him that much better of a player when he eventually gets back on the field.

"This was definitely a learning year for me," he said. "For me to sit out and just see it from the sideline and see the game-speed and just the different things that you can't really see on the field because the game is so fast: pass protection, audibles and little small stuff that you're able to see from the sidelines that you can't see on the field without learning that.

"I learned how to prepare as a professional; getting to work, being at work, being attentive and productive, things like that. This was definitely a learning year for me; there's a lot of positives out of this, I could go on forever, but the No. 1 thing is I learned a lot, I matured a lot and I learned how to be a professional and that's going to carry on to next year to make next year a lot easier for me."

With Leshoure being careful not to overextend himself in rehab and Best still not cleared for football activities, expect the Lions to look to bolster their depth at running back via the draft or free agency.

"We can't necessarily put all our eggs in the basket of guys that are coming off injuries," Mayhew said.

"We have to make sure that we've got some depth there and we'll look at free agency and the draft as well as trades, as well as waiver claims, as well as street guys."

But Leshoure expects to be ready to go Week 1 ... at least that's what he's working towards here in March.