In the two weeks since Lions receiver Nate Burleson was lost for the season with a broken leg, a couple of young receivers — Titus Young and Ryan Broyles — have played well in his absence. And that raises an uncomfortable fact for the 31-year-old Burleson: When the Lions have two receivers who are younger, cheaper and healthier than him who are doing his job in his absence, the Lions may decide after the season that they don’t need Burleson at all.
But if Burleson is worried about getting cut next offseason, he’s not showing it. Instead, Burleson is saying he’s happy for Young and Broyles.
“I’m happy for the young guys,” Burleson told the team’s website. “They are in a good position. I told them me being injured is a great time for those guys to solidify themselves as great receivers. Just being realistic, that’s what the game is about. It’s about stepping up when people go down.”
Burleson said that by supporting Young and Broyles, he’s doing for them what a veteran receiver did for him when he was a 23-year-old on the 2004 Vikings.
“Me and Marcus Robinson were battling for the [spot] opposite Randy Moss and I remember him telling me, ‘I’m not going to knock you and I’m not going to pull you down. I’ll always be there,’” Burleson said. “I thought to myself, ‘If he can do that, I’m never going to cheat the game and be a selfish [player]. I’m always going to give the guys the tools they need even if it puts me in a position that makes me uncomfortable.’”
Burleson has two more seasons on the five-year, $25 million contract he signed with the Lions in 2010, but he knows that in the NFL, injured players on the wrong side of 30 often don’t make it to the end of their contracts. Especially when the team has younger players available.
“With them balling out completely, it could leave me the odd man out,” Burleson said. “That’s just a reality of the game. Once I heal up, I’m going to come back at a high level and if my spot is secure on this team then I’m going to continue to do what I do and lead. If not, hopefully, I prepped the young guys to be in a position where they can easily take my place.”
And so Burleson will continue to be a good teammate and help Young and Broyles in any way he can. Even if he’s helping them push him out of a job.