Jace Billingsley's up close look at New England Patriots slot receiver Julian Edelman in action at Ford Field last Friday night was a clinic for any young player learning his craft.
Edelman caught three passes in the game for 53 yards, all in the first quarter, before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the Patriots' 30-28 win over the Detroit Lions in Game 3 of the preseason.
It was a good showing before the injury occurred, but what caught Billingsley's eye was Edelman's pregame workout routine. It was as compelling as watching him in the game.
"He was out there early, putting in extra work," Billingsley said this week. "It was good to see. It was inspiring.
"He was one of the earliest guys out there, getting tons of catches – getting warmed up early and doing things. He came out hot in the first quarter. You can tell that all that work pays off.
"He's just a great competitor. It's too bad to see him go down."
Edelman's play and background make him a good model for Billingsley, who is competing for a spot on the Lions' roster primarily as a slot receiver for the second straight year.
They are similar in physical stature – 5-10, 200 pounds for Edelman, 5-9, 189 for Billingsley.
And their backgrounds aren't all that different. Edelman has developed steadily into one of the NFL's top slot receivers since the Patriots drafted him in the seventh round in 2009. Billingsley signed with the Lions last year as an undrafted free agent from Eastern Washington.
With the Lions' final preseason game against the Bills on Thursday and a mandatory roster cut to 53 players on Saturday, this is a stressful time in the NFL for players on the bubble. Careers can begin, end or be put on hold in the next few days.
Going through it last year makes it easier the second time around.
"It's a similar situation," Billingsley said. "It's just that this year I'm more experienced. I'm going to learn from my experience. I'm not going to stress myself."
Billingsley led the Lions in the preseason last year with 12 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
That did not win a roster spot, though. He was let go in the final cut, signed back to the practice squad, and promoted to the active roster for the final game of the regular season and the playoff loss to Seattle. He was not active for either game.
Billingsley has made a good impression again this year, with eight receptions in the first three games. And again, that doesn't guarantee anything.
As much as he wants to make the roster, Billingsley has learned that it does no good to juggle the numbers on the roster to figure out where he stands.
"I feel like I'm in a good spot," Billingsley said. "That's a question for the coaches and scouts. I don't want to do their job. I do what I do. I'm just going to enjoy the process."
Regardless of what happens, Billingsley knows he emptied the tank in terms of preparation and performance.
"Every game, every play I play, I try to do the best I can," he said. "Whatever's at stake, it doesn't make a difference to me.
"Obviously, there are plays you want back," he said. "That's with everybody. You're not going to have a perfect game every time. Definitely, I believe I left it on the field
"No matter what happens, I'm not going to have any regrets."