By Ashley Dunkak
Wide receiver Nate Burleson fractured his ulna and radius when he crashed on I-696 at 2:25 a.m. Tuesday when he reached over while driving to catch the pizza boxes falling off his passenger seat.
While the reason for the crash seems ridiculous, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz empathized and seemed relieved that Burleson did not suffer more serious injuries.
“Any time you’re in a highway accident, there’s potential for worse than broken bones,” Schwartz said. “He was fortunate in this case and we were fortunate in this case that it wasn’t more than that. We’ve all dealt with some sort of distraction driving before. I’ve cured myself of texting and driving. I did it for about two months and now I’ve got that Sync thing with the Fords and all that – I never ever touch my cell phone in the car.
“But the one thing that I probably need to cure myself of is eating and driving,” Schwartz added. “There’s too many times I leave the office late at night, and you grab something, and I’ve had it happen to me – drop it on your lap or do something else. That’s stuff we all need to learn from.”
Besides the fact that Burleson is relatively all right after what was probably a high-speed crash, given that it occurred on the highway, there is more good news in that the injury is not expected cost Burleson his season, though the prognosis could change after Burleson has surgery Wednesday.
“It’s not a career ender, it’s not a season ender, at least at this point,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said the injury is not a compound fracture and does not require emergency surgery. The procedure will be performed by the same doctor who worked on Burleson’s broken leg last season.
Because it is still early in the situation, Schwartz said the team is not yet putting Burleson on injured reserve. He will still be in the locker room and travel with the team, so the Lions will still have his leadership, just not on the field.
“Nate’ll be back at some time, and when he does, he’ll be a big contributor,” Schwartz said. “It doesn’t just have to begin and end with our wide receivers. I think our tight ends can contribute more. I think our running backs can contribute more. I think all those are important parts of this. He’ll be missed, but he’ll be back, and we won’t miss a beat.”
Police confirmed that Burleson wore his seat belt, that alcohol was not involved – no tests were administered because there were no signs of either alcohol or drug use – and that the air bags of Burleson’s 2009 GMC Yukon did deploy.
He hit the center median on I-696 in Farmington Hills at 2:25 a.m. Tuesday, reportedly on his way back home from watching Monday Night Football with teammates.