By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions locker room just feels different without Nate Burleson.
Always full of smiles and laughs as well as insight, the wide receiver is a go-to guy for media and similarly beloved by his teammates. Whether discussing his “Lion Blood” clothing line, the latest additions to his shoe collection or the wine cellar he converted to hold that shoe collection, Burleson is a great quote, a hard worker and by accounts a great individual.
The Lions miss that persona as much as anything. The 116-yard receiving game Burleson delivered Sunday was one of his best in years, but for now the players are just excited that Burleson is okay and will be back around the team soon.
“I went and saw Nate last night,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He’s in good spirits. We’re excited to get him back in here, just get him back around. People are doing a good job picking it up. It’s hard to replace a guy like Nate, but we’ll get him back soon enough and in the meantime, we talked about it enough, the guys who need to step up, and they know who they are. It’s really all 52 because there’s a certain energy that No. 13 brings every week and we just have to cover for him in this time of need.”
Exactly when Burleson will be back around is still up in the air, but Raiola said his teammate cannot wait.
“Not soon enough, let’s put it that way,” Raiola said. “He’s going to be back in here as soon as he can, I know that.”
Between the lines, the Lions have to be moving on, though, and they have to do it quickly. The week culminates in a home matchup with division rival Chicago, and the Lions need to be ready.
On the field, Detroit needs more players stepping up in the pass game, especially receivers Patrick Edwards, Chris Durham and Ryan Broyles. So far the group has done that. Calvin Johnson, who of course contributes a monumental amount to the air attack already, said more reps for everyone else while Burleson is out will make the unit stronger long-term.
“We’ve had guys stepping up at the X position, Nate’s position, and at the F, when Nate goes in and plays slot,” Johnson said. “Broyles is getting a lot more burden, and he loves it because he just wants to be back out in the field, and Durham’s over there, he’s handling his business. He’s getting experience, more and more experience every game, so this is good for him in the end. It’s going to make us a very good receiver group.”