As far as Nick Bellore sees it, playing linebacker vs. playing fullback isn’t that big of a difference.
What was an experiment last year appears to have turned into a full-time position switch for the veteran Bellore. The Lions now list him as a fullback on their roster.
“There’s a lot of carryover,” Bellore said of the two positions. “You’re kind of in the same attacking positions. The only difference is you’re not moving backwards – or at least I hope not.
“It’s mostly just kind of mirroring what linebackers do. It’s not the easiest transition. I’m learning, day by day, offensive terminology and all that stuff, so it takes time, but I’ve got great coaches and they’re kind of teaching me and helping me along the way.”
The switch could carry even more significance for the Lions depending on how severe the injury to seventh-round pick Nick Bawden is. Bawden went to the ground with a right leg injury at minicamp practice Wednesday during a special teams drill. Bawden laid on the field for several minutes before being helped to the sideline. He eventually walked into the facility under his own power, but didn’t return. Head coach Matt Patricia didn’t give any update on Bawden’s status during Thursday morning’s press conference.
“I think just in general for me and everyone here injuries will be something that we definitely don’t talk about,” Patricia said. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to finish practice and we’re trying to go through the process right now to see what that is.”
Lions general manager Bob Quinn described Bawden as the best fullback in this year’s draft after selecting him. He and Bellore were expected to compete for the role.
Bellore first started working at fullback while with the New York Jets from 2011-14, but never got into a game in that role. The Lions eliminated the fullback position from the roster last offseason when they released Michael Burton, but experimented with a few options in short yardage situations before settling in on Bellore, using him on 13 offensive snaps in 2017.
One of those snaps was a 1-yard touchdown reception – the first of his career – Week 13 in Baltimore.
“During (the re-signing) process it was talked about that maybe I play a little fullback,” Bellore said. “I was all for that. I enjoyed doing it last year. Learning a new skill that can help you moving forward, I’m all for it.”
The Lions have put a lot of resources into improving the league's last-ranked rushing attack, and the return of the fullback position is one of them.