By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – As great of a locker room presence as Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson provides, he tries his best to be on the field as much as possible, even after breaking both bones in his forearm just weeks ago.
Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew spotted Burleson catching balls during practice Wednesday. With Burleson cleared to do little more than rehab and run around at this point, Mayhew came over to Burleson to have a chat.
“He was concerned that I was doing too much with the hand, catching balls with both hands – catching footballs is what he thought I was doing, and I just told him I was running routes, just getting a feel for catching tennis balls in my right hand,” Burleson explained. “I’ll be honest with you, man, I was happy to see somebody that was concerned for my health. Usually, I don’t know, in football – this organization’s really good – but in football sometimes they just throw you out there and they’re like, ‘Whatever,’ with your health.
“But Mayhew, he was really concerned,” Burleson added. “He said, ‘Look, I want you back just like everybody else, but I want you back healthy and at 100 percent.’ It was a real sincere gesture from somebody that doesn’t need to do that. It was great to hear, and I just told him that I’m good. I’m just out here getting a feel for it and just to show the young guys that I’m still here, baby.”
Burleson had his cast removed Tuesday, and he showed off long, matching scars sealed off with surgical glue on the inside and outside of his forearm. The cast he has now is bright blue with black fishing line that allows Burleson to take it on and off easily and tighten it up once he puts it on.
The wide receiver is clearly excited about his progress.
“Cast off yesterday, running around today – who knows what tomorrow will bring?” Burleson said, playfully grabbing a reporter by the shoulders and shaking him lightly.
Burleson is not yet allowed to be catching footballs, but while he has not been told to go out to practice, he figured that if he could run, he could be out there with his teammates.
“I can say I want to be out there all I want, but if I’m sitting inside here I don’t feel good, so just getting out there, moving around, it gives me a little bit more excitement, enthusiasm,” Burleson said, “and on top of that, it helps me deal with the insanity of sitting out.”
Center Dominic Raiola, under heavy scrutiny recently for an incident in which he is alleged to have yelled profane and homophobic insults at members of the University of Wisconsin band, broke into a smile at the mention of Burleson.
Grinning, he said he was not surprised at all to see his teammate out on the field.
“A lot of awesome,” Raiola said. “A lot of fun. We stretch in the same line. I went to go see him after his surgery and he was like, ‘Ah, two weeks, I’ll get it off, I’ll start running.’ I’m like, ‘No, you can’t do that. You just had surgery. So I knew. He can’t wait. He’s chomping at the bit to just get back out there.”
Burleson, anxious as he is, will let the staff rein him in as needed, but he is not in any hurry to do it himself.
“I’m going to push the limits,” Burleson said. “They’re going to have to pull me back off the field. I’d rather them tell me not to do something than me sit inside here not doing anything.”