Lions receiver Nate Burleson, here with Calvin Johnson before the Green Bay game in Week 5, is eager to return from a broken left forearm but wants to make sure he doesn't come back too soon and risk reinjurying the limb. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Lions receiver Nate Burleson wishes he was already back on the field after breaking his forearm on Sept. 24, but seeing another NFL player struggle to recover from a similar injury has given him perspective. .
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is still recovering from breaking his left forearm after having four operations in the last 10 months, according to The Boston Globe, and he has yet to play this season.
“Seeing the Gronk situation from a bird’s eye view, it really makes me hesitant,” Burleson said. “I’m going to be smart about it.”
Burleson does have a reason for optimism in comparing his broken left forearm to Gronkowski’s, though. An infection after Gronkowski’s surgery last January significantly slowed the healing process and led to two more surgeries.
Three weeks removed from his surgery, Burleson’s wound has healed without incident, so the focus now is on the bone healing and him recovering the strength and rotation in his arm.
Burleson said he doesn’t yet have a timeline for his return, but didn’t rule out playing after the Lions bye week against the Bears in Week 10.
“If it was up to me, I would’ve braced it up and played last week,” Burleson said. “I feel like I can catch, but I feel like the doctors differ. I’ve got all my strength in my grip, so for me, if I can run without feeling it in the grip or anything, I feel like I can play football. But obviously there’s a risk to that.”
“The more I’m out, the less chance there is for me to hurt it again.”
So far, Burleson has caught tennis balls, and although he can grip a football, he hasn’t yet caught one.
“I’m not going to have Matt (Stafford) throw me a bullet just yet,” he said.
Right now, Burleson is working to regain calcification in the bone and said he’s using a bone stimulator, ice and vitamin D pills to help the process.
When he’s cleared by doctors, Burleson said he expects to run routes while catching a Nerf football. As soon as he’s capable of catching a real football, he plans to practice.
Burleson also plans to wear a Kevlar brace on his forearm when he returns.
“I have to be smart because the second half of the season is when we need to play well and when we need to be healthy,” Burleson said. “And I don’t plan on missing any more games until I’m retired. This whole sitting out thing is really getting old to me.”
And although Burleson is frustrated to not be playing, seeing his team jump out to a 4-2 start has certainly helped.
“When we lost that game in Green Bay, I promise you I wanted to get out and play with pain,” he said. “But when guys win and I’m banged up, it makes it that much easier to heal without any type of feelings.”