Pettigrew vows to be ready for start of Lions camp

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
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Detroit — Brandon Pettigrew will be ready for training camp.

Of that the Lions tight end isn’t concerned, and wants to make clear, just months after coming off knee surgery.

“I will be there,” Pettigrew said last week. “The start of training camp, I’ll be there.”

Pettigrew suffered the second torn ACL in his career Dec. 14 in St. Louis, had surgery shortly after, and is now in full rehabilitation — and optimistic about getting back on the field late this summer.

“I’m four months out right now (from having surgery) and I’m ahead of the game,” he said. “I want to keep progressing and keep the strengthening up, that’s probably the biggest part.

“We’ll see where I’m at in camp.”

Nobody wants knee surgery, but Pettigrew could be hoping this return from a serious knee injury is as successful as the first time.

Pettigrew tore an ACL during the Thanksgiving game in 2009, his rookie season, and was able to be ready for the start of the 2010 season.

Catching 71 passes for 722 yards (and four touchdowns), those numbers were only eclipsed during his 2011 season when he caught 83 passes for 777 yards and five touchdowns.

Those types of numbers aren’t likely in the future for Pettigrew, 31 once he returns to the lineup.

With Eric Ebron entrenched as the pass-catching tight end, Pettigrew’s versatility as a receiving threat along with his elite blocking ability make him a valuable piece of the offense.

“You’re probably going to be used to your strengths,” Pettigrew said. “That’s the way we’re going to try to build this team up.

“I still look at myself as a complete player. Are there guys on this team that can do a certain thing better than me? Yes. There’s always someone bigger than you. There’s always someone faster than you. There’s always someone smarter than you. Like I said, you focus on your strengths and I’m doing just that.

“Whatever role I have I’ll embrace to the fullest and I’ll be a leader to the rest of my team.”

It’s a team Pettigrew believes can be competitive and explosive offensively, although without one very big weapon.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson retired after the season, and Pettigrew admits it’s already kind of strange without one of the Lions’ greats.

“It’s strange already knowing he’s not (around the Allen Park training facility),” Pettigrew said. “He sat in front of me in meetings and looking at Calvin not being there … but that’s how it works and it (football) goes on. He’s on with his life and football will go on without whoever you are.”

The Lions will go on, too, said Pettigrew, although Johnson will leave a lasting impact.

“Any team in this league would miss Calvin,” Pettigrew said. “He is up there probably as the greatest of all time in my eyes. He’s a great player and he’s an even better person and I’m probably not the only person you’ll hear that from. He’ll definitely be missed, but football goes on and we’ll do what we have to do to field the position.

“We’ve got great leadership on this team and it starts with coach (Jim) Caldwell. He’s going to implement a system that works best for us as a whole and we’re going to go with our strengths and what we do.

“There’s definitely confidence. We lost Calvin but there’s still guys there that can make plays and young guys will come in hungry and will want to make plays. We’ll implement the system and keep the structure tight and build from there. We’re going to be just fine.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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