June 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

John Niyo

New WR Nate Burleson brings Lions 'moxie that we need'

Nate Burleson caught 63 passes for 812 yards and three touchdowns last season for the Seahawks. (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News))

Allen Park -- Shawn Jefferson was the first one to promise it.

But it hasn't taken Nate Burleson long to deliver, adding the kind of swagger the Lions' receiving corps needed. The eighth-year pro was one of the Lions' prime targets in free agency back in early March, and not just for his track record as a pass catcher.

"The thing that he brings is a moxie that we need," noted Jefferson, the Lions' receivers coach, the day Burleson was introduced to the local media. "He brings that energy to the room that you're looking for."

He does, indeed. And at first glance, it looks like Burleson's personality is the perfect complement to Calvin Johnson, the Lions' would-be Pro Bowler whose unassuming way is too often misread by the fans. Johnson is simply a freakish, athletic talent who lacks the diva gene many other top receivers in the league display. And that's just fine with his coach.

"I encourage my guys to be themselves," Jefferson said, when asked about Johnson's low-key demeanor. "He's not a boisterous guy, by nature. So for me to try to force him to be that, it wouldn't be fair. That's not him. The thing for him is to be boisterous with his play, not with his mouth. I want Calvin to be Calvin."

Or Batman, as it were. That's the line Burleson's been using his first few months in the Lions' locker room, where he's a quick hit with his teammates and an early favorite of the TV cameras with his quick wit and big personality.

He's an 'energy guy'

"Now that I'm playing with Calvin, it's almost a mirror image of a young Randy Moss," Burleson said this week in a WXYT radio interview. "I am gonna be able to eat off his plate, and I'm OK with saying that. And I'm OK with being the Robin to his Batman. I've played that role before."

On the field, that means lightening the load for No. 81, adding another bona fide target for quarterback Matthew Stafford. And it's Burleson's ability to get open and produce yards after the catch that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan coveted, recalling the way he complemented Randy Moss early in his career in Minnesota. (Linehan was the Vikings' offensive coordinator, then, too.)

But it also means lightening the mood a little bit, on and off the field, whether it's kidding around with Stafford, whom Burleson jokingly calls the "star actor in 'Varsity Blues,'" or keeping second-year receiver Derrick Williams and the rest of the position group in stitches on daily basis. Whatever the case, it's a role the 28-year-old Burleson is more than comfortable filling for his new team.

"I'm an energy guy," Burleson said. "You know, I get excited. If I get a first down, I'm gonna make sure everybody knows I got a first down. If I get in the end zone, I'm gonna think of something to do so I can get my team and the crowd going. So I like to play with a little bit of confidence and a little bit of swag."

john.niyo@detnews.com">john.niyo@detnews.com (313) 982-3810 twitter.com/JohnNiyo