RB Mikel Leshoure participates in full practice for first time since Achilles injury

Posted Jun 14, 2012

For the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon early in training camp last year, Lions running back Mikel Leshoure took a handoff from quarterback Matthew Stafford in a team period at practice Thursday.

Leshoure took the handoff, darted through the line of scrimmage, cut to his right to avoid a defender and then sprinted downfield 30 yards to finish the play. On his way back to the huddle, Leshoure got a few cheers from teammates and few taps on the helmets from the defense as a show of respect for how hard he’s worked to get himself back onto the practice field and to this point in his recovery.

“You hear about that Achilles injury and the first thing people say is that you’re out a year,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “It’s a year before you even get back into running. “He’s out there cutting and shaking with a couple months left of possible rehab. That is exciting. For us to have him on the field right now in June is exciting and that’s why I think everyone was gassed up.”

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was also glad to see Leshoure back at practice and looking like a running back again.

“I though Mikel looked like a running back,” Schwartz said after the final practice of the Lions’ three-day minicamp on Thursday. “You could tell when he ran that he didn’t think about his ankle or his Achilles or anything else. He was thinking about finding the hole and getting up field.

“I think the thing that was most encouraging about it was when the ball went into his hand he didn’t think about it. We ran him left. We ran him right. He was making cuts off defenders. He was making cuts as they appeared. He was a running back. He wasn’t doing rehab. He wasn’t doing foot patterns. He wasn’t controlling the action. He was reacting to defenders. That’s an important step.”

The next step for Leshoure, a second-round pick in the draft last year, is obviously having the same progression once training camp rolls around and it starts to mean something in camp and the preseason. But Thursday was certainly a big step in his recovery.

“The Achilles feels real good,” Leshoure said after practice. “Today was my first full action as far as getting some runs and actually having to react from the defense. It felt real good. It feels good now. I felt like I made some cuts and I wasn’t thinking about anything out there just going out there and reacting.”

Leshoure has been one of the missing pieces in Scott Linehan’s offense. He has power and speed, with great vision and quickness. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and was the best player on the field for the two first weeks of training camp last year, in my opinion. Leshoure is a perfect compliment to running back Jahvid Best and should get plenty of opportunities to make plays in this offense.

“He’s going to be that X-factor piece, I think,” Burleson said. “With us being healthy and doing what we need to do, he could easily be one of the up-and-coming stars of this team and this season; a comeback player of the year candidate. All that because he’s truly that talented.”

More than anything, it was just good to see a healthy Leshoure making cuts, running the football and avoiding defenders again.

“We’ve got much respect for that kid,” said defensive tackle Corey Williams. “He’s a good kid. He’s going to be a great running back. To take the injury he had and see him back out there, it’s great. I tell him every day that we can’t wait to get him back on the field. He was running and cutting and looking good. We’re glad to have him back because he’s going to help us out a whole lot.”

Unfortunately, Leshoure won’t be able to help his team out the first two weeks of the regular season after being suspended two games by the NFL Wednesday for receiving two possessions of marijuana chargers this offseason.

Leshoure said after practice Thursday that he accepted the punishment levied to him and hopes to move past the off-the-field stuff and focus on helping the Lions win games and get back to the playoffs.

“I’m definitely not happy about it,” Leshoure said of the suspension. “I’d love to be out there with my team, but I understand the consequences you have to face when you do wrong. “I know one thing for sure and one thing for certain is that I definitely learned from my mistakes. I’m still putting it behind me, but I have to accept it and move forward."

It's easier to do that after watching him run Thursday.