LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Jahvid Best’s first of three concussions — that he knows about — happened in a terrifying sequence in college.
Best leaped into the end zone and landed on the back of his head, from about 8 feet in the air, in a game that ended his career at California.
“If I can come back from that one, this one should be a piece of cake,” he said Monday.
The speedy running back had a second concussion in a preseason game last year and his third on Oct. 16, ending his second NFL season after just six games.
Best has been working out with his teammates during organized team activities and expects to be cleared for contact before training camp starts next month.
Despite the increasing concerns about the danger of playing with concussions, Best insisted that doubts about his future in the game don’t creep into his mind.
“I’m not impaired or anything,” he said. “I’m pretty sure if there was real damage going on, I would have physical problems or mental problems — and I have no problems. So, I’m not worried about it.”
Detroit drafted Best in the first round two years ago despite his concussion history and the selection has looked sound when he has been healthy.
A toe injury stunted his rookie season, when Best played through pain to be in every game. His second concussion as a pro knocked him out of the lineup last year after he helped the Lions win five of their first six games. They finished with 10 victories, earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
Best ran for a career-high 163 yards — more than doubling his best day on the ground — and a touchdown against Chicago in the game before his season ended.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz hasn’t needed to see Best develop his talents this offseason because he already knows what he’s capable of doing on the field.
“You saw it as a rookie when he was healthy,” Schwartz said. “You saw it last year when he was healthy, probably culminated by that Monday night game against Chicago.
“He’s a home run hitter. He’s an explosive player, and that means a lot to our offense.”
Best said he hasn’t had any concussion symptoms since headaches subsided a couple weeks after his last game of 2011. After Best briefly lobbied the Lions to let him play, he said a “bunch” of specialists evaluated him and all agreed he should go on injured reserve.
Following months of rest and recovery, including hanging out with surfers in San Diego and getting a ton of tattoos, Best was fired up when he was cleared to participate in offseason workouts.
“The first OTA, I felt like I was a rookie again,” he said. “I didn’t know what it felt like to go through a practice, it has been so long. I’m excited to just be back out there.”
Best is trying to strengthen his neck with daily exercises and plans to try different helmets during training camp, hoping to cut the chances of having another concussion, but concedes there’s only so much he can do.
“If you get hit, you get hit,” he said. “Boxers can’t stop from getting knocked out. You just got to play.”
The Lions need Best in the lineup to balance their one-dimensional offense, which depended almost exclusively on Matthew Stafford’s arm and receiving targets such as All-Pro Calvin Johnson last season.
“Jahvid is a big-play guy,” Johnson said. “He’s going to help us a lot — as long as he can stay concussion free.”
NOTES: Lions receiver Titus Young spoke to reporters for the first time since he punched Louis Delmas when the veteran safety wasn’t looking, but declined to talk about what happened. … Delmas and RB Mikel Leshoure didn’t participate in Monday’s OTA because of ankle ailments, Schwartz said.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/larrylage
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)