By: Will Burchfield
Brandon Pettigrew returned to practice last week for the first time in nearly a year, and he suggested on Monday that it's only a matter of time before he suits up for a game.
"It's fairly light and I'm not really pushing it too much," he said of his first week of practice, "but I'm not far off."
The tight end has been sidelined since tearing his ACL last December, but was adamant that his mindset is to play this season.
"Of course, of course it is," he said.
Could Pettigrew's debut come as soon as this Sunday, when the Lions visit the New Orleans Saints?
"We'll see, we'll see where it goes. I'm not going to say for certain that I'll play Sunday but we'll definitely see where I'm at at the end of the week," he said.
Having removed Pettigrew from the physically unable to play list last Tuesday, the Detroit Lions must decide by December 13 whether to activate Pettigrew or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. For Pettigrew, the biggest hurdle left to clear pertains to his stamina.
"It's just (a matter of) making sure you're ready to play endurance wise. Mentally I've had tons of reps. I've been standing on the sideline for so long, so I've had tons of mental reps to get ready and that's really the biggest part," he said. "This game, like they say, is 90 percent mental."
If and when Pettigrew returns, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound tight end figures to serve primarily in a blocking role. The Lions' 30th-ranked rushing attack (80.8 yards per game) could certainly use his help.
"Every player has their certain skill set, I'm clearly known as a blocker," Pettigrew said. "I'm just ready to get back and offer that."
Eric Ebron, getting dressed at the locker to Pettigrew's right, scoffed at this notion.
"You run routes better than me, boy. Stop playing," he said.
With both Pettigrew and linebacker DeAndre Levy participating in practice of late, the Lions are poised to field one of the healthiest teams in the league - and certainly in the NFC North - for the stretch run of the season. The timing couldn't be better.
"Midway through the (season), guys are getting beat on, getting tired, it's good to have fresh legs in the game," Pettigrew said. "That's a big deal, especially at the linebacker position with Levy. They've got some depth but Levy's a great player. In my opinion he's a Pro Bowl player. It'll definitely be great to get him back and everybody else who's sidelined right now."
Along with Pettigrew and Levy, running back Ameer Abdullah seems to be making progress in her return from a foot injury. Per Ian Rapoport, Abdullah had a "positive appointment" last Tuesday with Dr. Robert Anderson, who confirmed Abdullah's foot is "structurally sound."
Pettigrew is in the third year of a four-year, $16 million contract. With Ebron emerging as the team's clear No. 1 tight end, Pettigrew's days with the Lions may be numbered.
But his focus remains on the present.
"I'm here now, so that's really what I'm worried about," he said. "I'm not worried about too far in the future. We got New Orleans this week and that's what we're looking forward to."
Asked if he wants to play, Pettigrew repeated the question and smiled.
"Do I want to play? I'm here seven days a week working my butt off, I think I want to play," he said.
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