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Allen Park — Lions defensive tackle Caraun Reid faced his locker when he started answering questions for a couple of reporters on Friday afternoon and was surprised when he turned around to about three times as many as when he started talking.

As a rookie last season, Reid was more under the radar and didn't have very much fanfare or the same media horde, but entering this season with higher expectations, he's become more sought-after.

The high-ankle sprain Reid suffered in the exhibition season caused him to miss the first two regular-season games and deferred his debut to Sunday, where he's expected to be a key piece in the rotation of the defensive line when the Lions face the Denver Broncos at Ford Field.

In the offseason, Reid transformed his body with more lean muscle mass and his anticipated insertion as a key contributor in the rotation was one of the biggest stories of the summer. But he's finally looking to get an opportunity to help the defense get back to the levels it achieved last season.

He said the injury setback wasn't how he expected to start the season, but he's thankful for the opportunity to come back healthy.

"It's not frustrating. I learned a lot and everything is a blessing," Reid said. "You take it as it is, learn from it, grow from it and do what I can."

Although the Lions are missing their two big anchors from last season — Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who departed as free agents — they're looking to Reid to have a bigger role than last season.

He appeared in 12 games and was learning the position, but after an offseason of work with Suh, he's looking to turn some of that work into production. After some time in a walking boot, he's back at practice and looking to get into a groove.

"I try to do as much as I can — whatever I have to do whenever I'm called, to try to make an impact whenever I can," he said. "I can get on the field more and be a lot more active and hustle to give everything I can."

While Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker have held down the middle, having Reid as an option will widen the rotation and provide a fresher body to help improve a defense that is ranked among the worst in the league after finishing No. 2 last season.

Ngata has had to ramp up himself, coming off some injuries in the preseason, but if the line can start to produce, it could bring back the familiar strength on the defensive side of the ball.

"I think (Ngata's) getting better every week. Oftentimes, guys that play that position, they don't always show up in the stat line," coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's oftentimes a tackle that's made by a defensive end or a tackle that's made by a linebacker or someone else, is due to them doing their job correctly and drawing double teams and things of that nature.

"But he's getting better every week, which is a good thing."

Reid is excited to be back, even if it's a big challenge to face Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in his first game back.

"It's going to be cool," he said. "I'm excited just to be on the field with my guys; that's just a special opportunity."

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

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