ALLEN PARK, Mich. – One of the top position battles for the Detroit Lions this offseason is the receiver spot to replace Titus Young, who was released four months ago.
Veteran Nate Burleson believes the replacement quite possibly will be Patrick Edwards, who signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago but was injured and spent last season on the practice squad.
“Patrick Edwards is playing helluva ball right now,” Burleson said Friday during a news conference to promote a charity softball game. “He was my darkhorse last year before (Edwards got injured).
“He’s not so much a darkhorse now. He’s just a guy that needs to prove that he can stay healthy and consistent with his play, and I guarantee you he will be a big-time playmaker for us this year.”
Edwards has overcome his share of adversity to get this opportunity.
He was a premature baby, had to walk on at the University of Houston and then suffered a horrific compound fracture in his right leg during a game in 2008.
Edwards, who is 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, has fought through it all. During his senior year at Houston, he made 89 catches for 1,752 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t selected in last year’s NFL Draft.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Edwards said. “I’ve got a big opportunity to get out there and get on the field and produce.
“I took it (last season) like a redshirt, just trying to learn everything. They kept me around. Obviously, there’s something they like about me. I just took that as more motivation.”
Edwards has been working out with a Jamaican sprint coach and said he recently was clocked in 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
With Burleson (broken leg) and Ryan Broyles (knee surgery) returning from injuries to handle the slot-receiver role, the Lions are in need of an outside receiver to play opposite Calvin Johnson.
Ideally, he would be taller and bigger than Edwards, but Burleson doesn’t see that as a problem.
“This is a copycat league,” Burleson said. “What’s trending as of lately is those types of receivers – the Percy Harvins, DeSean Jacksons. I don’t think size is so much an issue anymore. If you have a smaller guy who’s just as explosive and can catch the ball, he can be just as damaging to defenses.
“I don’t want to draw any comparisons to him and Titus in too many ways, but they’re similar in the fact that they both catch the ball very well and are very explosive. He (Edwards) can catch the underneath ball, turn it up field for 50 yards or he can run past you and catch a route over the top of your head.
“That’s the type of guy we need – a guy that can balance out this receiving corps with Calvin, myself, the tight ends we have and, of course, Reggie (Bush) in the backfield.”
TALKING TRASH Burleson and the offensive players have had bragging rights on linebacker Stephen Tulloch and the defensive players since last year’s softball victory in an annual fundraiser.
Tulloch said he is flying in a couple ringers for this year’s rematch in St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan and New England linebacker Brandon Spikes.
Burleson and Tulloch made a wager on the game during Friday’s news conference with the loser having to pay $1,000 to the other’s foundation.
Proceeds from the event go to their two foundations. Tulloch’s foundation (tulloch55.com) focuses on underprivileged children, cancer patients and families in need, Burleson’s foundation (nateburlesonfoundation.org) helps out schools, Boys & Girls clubs and other groups in need.
“One hundred percent of the money goes right back out in the community,” Burleson said.
The event, which raised about $20,000 a year ago, takes place June 8 at King Boring Field in Dearborn, Mich. A home run derby will begin at 2 p.m., followed by the game. Tickets priced at $10 can be purchased on either of the players’ websites or at the gate. Children under 5 years old are admitted free.