ALLEN PARK, Mich. — With Mikel Leshoure coming off surgery for a torn Achilles and Jahvid Best’s uncertain future because of concussion problems, the Detroit Lions desperately need contingency plans at running back.
One of those options from within is moving diminutive receiver/return specialist Stefan Logan to fill a versatile role as sort of a poor man’s Darren Sproles out of the backfield.
Logan, who says he’s 5-foot-6, 178 pounds, has been getting quite a few reps at running back during the early part of training camp.
Kevin Smith is expected to be the starting running back if Best and Leshoure aren’t available, but Smith doesn’t provide much speed and certainly can’t handle the job alone.
“Whatever coach asks me to do, play running back, wide receiver, kick return, punt return, kickoff (coverage),” Logan said. “I don’t want to say ‘Slash’ ’cause Kordell Stewart had that (nickname). So I say ‘The Everything Man.’”
Considering Logan’s background, adding the running-back role isn’t farfetched. He rushed for nearly 6,000 yards during his college career at Division I-AA South Dakota, including 1,707 during his senior year in 2006.
“That’s all I ever played,” Logan said. “I didn’t play nothing else until I got to the NFL.
“I know the role that you have to take. It’s hard. It’s in your mind because your body gets tired, your body gets beat up a little bit. You’ve got to take care of your body and focus when you’re tired.”
Logan’s primary job for the Lions has been on special teams. He returned 67 punts and 88 kickoffs during the last two seasons combined.
Despite practicing on offense mostly with the receivers in the past, Logan has only one reception for 19 yards as a Lion.
The team has tried to take advantage of his versatility at times in the past. He has 24 rushing attempts for 127 yards.
His size, obviously, is not conducive to taking a pounding, but many of the plays called for him during practice so far have been on runs up the middle.
“They always expect you to go outside because you’ve got speed,” Logan said. “I’ll run in between the tackles, as well.”
Defenses often have trouble finding smaller backs through a big offensive line. The backs can then use their quickness to break through small creases.
The Lions could really use some type of game-breaking threat if Best doesn’t return.
“Sometimes it’s tough to see him,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of Logan’s running style. “There’s been some shorter running backs in the history of the National Football League. Even Barry Sanders wasn’t the tallest guy.
“There’s a lot of them through the league. They can get lost in there. Logan’s one of those guys.”
The question is whether Logan will be a quality option or just an option.
Running back coach Sam Gash didn’t hesitate to compare Logan to Sproles, who has taken on a significant role in the New Orleans offense.
“He’s stronger with the ball than people think,” Gash said of Logan. “He has a fearlessness about him that I kind of like as a running back.”
Sproles, listed at 5-foot-6, 190 pounds, rushed the ball 87 times, caught 86 passes, returned 40 kicks and 29 punts last season for the Saints.
“I want to get out and do some of the stuff he’s doing,” Logan said.
In a perfect world, Leshoure and Best would be healthy and the Lions wouldn’t have to consider using Logan at running back.
But, unless they can make a trade or find a decent running back on waivers, they just might need Logan there part of the time.
It’s an interesting development because Logan appeared to be on the verge of getting pushed out after the Lions drafted a receiver/return specialist in the second round each of the last two years (Titus Young and Ryan Broyles).
“Once you worry about that kind of stuff, you’ve already got yourself beat,” Logan said of the competition for his other jobs. “I’m not too worried about who they bring in. You just worry about what you can do and what you can handle.”
Logan, who made the NFL as an undrafted free agent, doesn’t care where he plays. He just wants a role — any role.
Ask him to do it, and he’ll do it.
“That’s pretty much my answer to everything they ask me … ‘OK,’” Logan said. “It’s kind of like a ‘yes’ man.
“I’m just out here doing everything they ask me to do and enjoying it. I’m loving it.”
Schwartz indicated that safety Louis Delmas missed Monday’s practice as a precautionary measure to avoid too much wear and tear during camp. Delmas is coming off knee surgery late last season.
… Offensive tackle Jeff Backus (cast on right hand for a thumb injury) missed his second straight day. Schwartz, however, has maintained that the injury is not serious.
… Safety Erik Coleman (groin), Leshoure (hamstring), Best and cornerback Chris Greenwood (abdominal surgery) also didn’t practice. Best and Greenwood remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
… Broyles, recovering from knee surgery, practiced for the second straight day after being taken off the injured list.