By LARRY LAGE/AP Sports Writer=
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) – Detroit Lions rookie receiver Ryan Broyles was fired up about being healthy enough to practice for the first time in nearly nine months.
When his head hit the pillow Sunday night, he thought about his health.
“I was hoping I’d wake up with my body feeling good,” Broyles said.
Broyles was quick and strong enough to break in front of cornerback Justin Miller on a slant during a one-on-one drill Monday, and he caught a short touchdown pass from quarterback Shaun Hill one day after being removed from the non-football injury list.
“Way to finish the play,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz shouted.
Hill said that was one of many plays Broyles has made in just two days thanks to two valuable skills.
“He’s a very good route runner and he’s got strong hands when it’s a contested throw,” Hill said. “Those are things you can’t find out until he goes against a defender.”
The former Oklahoma star had his way with defenses in college, breaking the NCAA for career receptions and ranking among active leaders in career yards on punt returns. Broyles finished with 349 catches for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns along with 1,194 yards and two more scores on punt returns.
He tore a ligament in his left knee during his ninth game as a senior with the Sooners, and there were questions about his health when the NFL draft arrived. He was still available when Detroit drafted him in the second round, 54th overall.
The native of Norman, Okla., insisted he wasn’t disappointed that he fell out of the first round.
“Since I started playing football in the eighth grade, I’ve dreamed of being in the NFL,” he said. “I didn’t dream about being a first-round pick. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
If Broyles can avoid a setback with his health, quarterback Matthew Stafford will have another option to go along with All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson, veteran Nate Burleson, second-year pro Titus Young along with tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. The Lions will likely pass enough again to keep all of their receiving targets happy.
Detroit threw an NFL-high 666 passes last season – with Hill attempting three, Stafford the rest – and probably will lean on the passing game again.
Stafford said he likes that Broyles is willing to put in the work to be good, but said he has a lot to learn after missing out on much of the offseason program and doesn’t believe the 5-10, 188-pound receiver is completely healthy yet. Broyles insisted he is fine, saying he’s practicing without restrictions.
“Coach (Schwartz) said, `Once you get in, we’re not taking you out,”‘ Broyles recalled. “Other than feeling a little fatigued after my second practice in two days after doing a lot of watching, I feel really good.”
During moments in which Broyles was feeling down because of his significant injury, his spirits were lifted by memories of a mission trip he took in May 2011 to Haiti with some Oklahoma football and women’s basketball players.
“It jumpstarted my life as a big, eye-opening experience,” he said. “You saw kids without anything and they just leaned on the Lord. Then, I came back I heard people complaining about their video games not working. People are so self-centered here. But in Haiti, they just love life and that’s how I’ve tried to be since that trip.
“I’m going to go back there after the season and my wife and I going to sponsor a kid to send him to school this year.”
Notes: RB Jahvid Best, who has not been cleared to practice after having concussions last year, said he’s “close” to returning and RB Mikel Leshoure (hamstring) said he’s “days” away from being back on the field. … S Louis Delmas was held out of practice as “preventative medicine,” according to Schwartz, and Delmas said he expected to practice Tuesday.