Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, going over an assistant coach for a reception during drills Wednesday, says he wants to see his career with Detroit through. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew doesn’t deny he’s had struggles during his career, but being a sought-after free agent this offseason provided validation he’s done plenty right during his first five years in the NFL.
And despite receiving interest in March from the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and other teams, the decision to return to Detroit wasn’t difficult.
“This is home for me,” Pettigrew said Tuesday at the Taste of the Lions event at Ford Field. “I like the fans. I like the atmosphere. More so, I like the team, period. I like the guys that I came here with and built it up from the bottom.”
Pettigrew was a first-round pick in 2009 following the Lions’ 0-16 season, and he had his best year in 2011 when his 83 catches for 777 yards and five touchdowns helped the team reach the postseason.
Since that year, though, Pettigrew has struggled with some lingering injuries and drops, and he’s seen his production slip in each of the past two seasons. But because of Pettigrew’s versatility as a pass catcher and blocker, the Lions made re-signing him a priority this offseason, and he agreed to a four-year deal worth $16 million.
Even with the Lions drafting tight end Eric Ebron in the first round out of North Carolina this year, Pettigrew will continue to play a key role because of his skills as a blocker.
“Two-tight end sets are usually the dominant offenses in the NFL nowadays,” Ebron said. “That’s pretty much what we’re trying to get to.”
Pettigrew said he was excited to see the Lions add another offensive weapon in the draft even though it was at his position. Ebron provides a different skill set as more of a glorified receiver.
“He’s obviously a good player,” Pettigrew said. “They drafted him early in the first round, and let’s go. It doesn’t really change anything. It’s just a part of the plan. I’m buying in as a team player, and I always will be.”
Behind Pettigrew and Ebron, the Lions have second-year tight end Joseph Fauria, who caught seven touchdowns last season. Although Fauria may be limited to red zone targets and occasional three-tight end sets in 2014, the depth of the group is impressive.
New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi will likely increase the use of the tight ends, but Pettigrew said he expects the up-tempo offense to help highlight more than just his position group.
Thus far, Ebron said the “laid back” Pettigrew has been a huge help in learning the playbook and adjusting to the NFL.
“He’s not one of those stuck-up guys or guys that believe a rookie’s a rookie,” said Ebron, though he was carrying Pettigrew’s helmet after the team’s organized team activity Wednesday. “He tries to help you because he needs help. He tries to work with the people that surround him to help him, to help us, to help the team get better.”
Pettigrew said he spent his time off trying to become a more consistent player and remain as well-rounded as possible. And while it was nice to have options in free agency, Pettigrew wanted to see his career with the Lions through.
“As a player, it’s what you’re looking for in a team,” he said. “And for me, it’s the longevity (with the Lions), and this is my home. I like it here. This is where I wanted to be.”