Stefan Logan getting back to his roots at running back

Posted Jul 30, 2012

It wasn’t until Stefan Logan got to the NFL that he became the special team’s ace everyone associates his game with.

Logan’s football roots were actually planted at running back. He played running back at Jackson High School in Miami and still holds the University of South Dakota record in all-purpose yards (7,859) and rushing yards (5,958). He was even a running back for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League in 2008.

It wasn't until he got to the NFL with the Steelers in 2009 that he began returning and covering kicks.

With injuries and upcoming suspensions now plaguing the Lions backfield, Logan, 31, is getting a chance to get back to his roots in Lions training camp.

“They said, ‘Hey, we want to see you at some running back,’” Logan said of a conversation he had with Lions coaches a couple weeks ago when they approached him about playing more running back in training camp this year. “I said, ‘alright,’ which is pretty much my answer to everything they ask me."

It’s the same answer he’s had for Lions coaches in the past when they’ve asked him to return kicks, cover kicks, play receiver or line up as a running back. Logan has certainly been a jack-of-all-trades since the team claimed him off waivers before the start of the regular season in 2010. He’s been the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner the last two years – earning Pro Bowl alternate honors as a returner in 2010 – and has experience at both receiver and running back.

“Its just like if they asked me to play tight end,” Logan said. “I’d say, ‘okay, I’m going to get whooped, but I’ll play it anyway.’”

Amid running back Jahvid Best (concussions) still not being cleared for contact and Mikel Leshoure hampered by a hamstring injury and an upcoming suspension the first two weeks of the regular season, the Lions are hoping a more permanent move to running back could give them another weapon and a different dynamic in their backfield.

“He’s been in the league for a while now,” Lions running backs coach Sam Gash said of Logan (5-6, 180) after practice Monday. “He’s run reverses, caught passes, kick return, punt return, so he’s not a guy we’re just trying to take and make something out of. He’s a playmaker and that’s kind of what you want on you team.”

Over the last two seasons, Logan has attempted 24 rushes for 127 yards with an average of 5.3 yards per rush. Being a good rusher is a lot about instincts, the same kind of instincts a good kick returner has to have.

“If you can return a kick, you have to be able to have great vision and see the field and I think we see those things from (Logan),” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “That translates to him lining up at the running back position and it translates to him running after the catch when he’s lined up as a wide receiver.”

Logan has excelled as a kickoff returner with a 26.2 career average on returns in three seasons in the league.

“It’s lanes that you’re supposed to be looking for and once you see that lane you kind of just hit it and get up in there,” he said of returning kicks and how it translates into being a good runner. “You have to be patient on certain runs. You have to let (a play) create itself. You have to have those instincts to be able to hit it up in there or bounce outside. After that, they always say you do your work once you get to the secondary, that’s on you.” The Lions are hopeful Logan can have a similar-type role to what Darren Sproles currently has with the Saints. Sproles made a name for himself as a terrific return specialist early in his career, but has expanded that role to include rushing (603 yards) and receiving (710 yards) for the Saints offense last season.

It’s the same role the team envisions for Best, when and if he returns to camp.

“He and Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) are very similar in size,” Gash said. “(Logan) has a low center of gravity. He has great balance and can hide. He has a great burst. He has the skills to be a very capable running back in this league.”

Logan is expected to have competition for both the kickoff and punt return duties from young players like Ryan Broyles, Titus Young and Patrick Edwards. It appeared before training camp started that Logan would have to fight just to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

“Once you worry about that kind of stuff you’re already beat, You’ve already lost the battle,” Logan said. ”I’m not worried about who they brought in. I know they bring guys in. Everybody has punt return and kickoff return capabilities, but once you get out in that fire, how can you handle it then. You just worry about what you can do and what you can handle.”

Right now, that’s second team running back duties behind Kevin Smith, as well as competing to be the team's primary returner for a third season.

“(Good running backs) know where the holes are and that’s what (Logan) does and he’s done his whole career,” Gash said. “Putting the ball in his hands at running back just gives him more opportunities.”