Lions’ Wick learns from competition in tight end battle

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions tight end Cole Wick readies his hands for a reception from the passing machine at the end of Monday’s practice in Allen Park.

Allen Park — Cole Wick defied the odds last season, becoming the first player from the University of the Incarnate Word to make an NFL roster.

After the Detroit Lions bolstered the team’s depth at tight end this offseason, signing Darren Fells and drafting Michael Roberts, Wick faces another uphill battle, but not one that’s insurmountable.

Wick’s best path to the roster, not involving an unforeseen injury to one of his teammates, could be through his increasingly varied blocking role. He’s been working in some more traditional fullback looks now that the Lions aren’t carrying the position on the roster.

While it has been common practice for Detroit to line a tight end up in the backfield as a lead blocker, Wick has seen practice reps as the lead back in an I-formation, most notably in goal-line situations.

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“I enjoy doing stuff like that, putting my head down and hitting people,” Wick said. “It doesn’t get better than that. I feel like I’m a role guy. I’ll play wherever they need me to play.”

Wick is also bigger than last season, but smaller than what he maxed out at this offseason. He tipped the scales at 253 pounds when he reported to the Lions last year, but bulked up to 278 when he was penciled in for a bigger role as a blocker before the addition of Fells. Now, Wick sits around 265, with more power and comparable quickness.

And even though the moves appear to be a blow to his job prospects, Wick has taken the additions of Fells and Roberts in stride and sees opportunity for individual growth.

“It’s a competition all the time, but when they bring in a guy like Fells, I’m trying to soak up as much as I can from him, whether I make the team or not,” Wick said. “I can take that and maybe use it somewhere else. And with Mike, he brings something else to the table and I can learn from him, too. The way he thinks, the way he sees things, the different perspectives are good. It opens your mind up a little bit.”

Fells has embraced his role as a mentor and sees some of himself in his new understudy, comparing his difficultly of switching to the NFL after an international basketball career to Wick’s unprecedented jump to the professional ranks from Incarnate Word.

“He has two speeds, walking and shot out of a cannon,” Fells said. “I’m trying to teach him when to throttle down in certain spots because he just wants to kill someone every single time. He has a lot of potential. He’s a great player. He’s a lot of speed coming off the ball, a lot faster than I am with his age. There’s a lot of potential there.”