Allen Park — Golden Tate at punt returner? Well, that’s what the Detroit Lions unofficial depth chart says, and everyone seemed content to play along with the joke on Wednesday.
When asked whether he seriously expected to be back deep against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend, a sly smile came across the veteran receiver’s face.
“Um, it’s Week 1, a lot of us don’t know what to expect,” Tate said. “I’ll be ready, have the hammies warmed up.”
Don’t be confused. Tate is more than willing to be put in the role. Unlike former Lions running back Reggie Bush, who had no interest in playing special teams when he was here, Tate would jump at the opportunity if asked.
“I like punt return because it’s your chance to go play backyard football, kind of catch the ball and make a play,” Tate said. “On offense, there’s a line that tells you you need to break at this depth and come at this angle. On punt return, you catch the ball, read your blocks and just go. That’s what I love about it.”
But more than anything, Tate wants to do whatever he can to help net a victory.
“If that’s what the team needs me to do to help us win, sign me up,” Tate said. “I just want to win games. I want to win a bunch of games for a long time. If that means I need to be moved to another position, so be it. Let’s just win.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell continued to remain mum on the team’s actual plans.
“We’ll see,” Caldwell said. “(Tate) could be there. We have a number of guys.”
Tate hasn’t returned a punt since 2015, when he handled 20 for the Lions, averaging 7.5 yards. He’s averaged 10.6 yards during his career.
The more likely options for Sunday are receiver TJ Jones and rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew. Both handled opportunities during the preseason. Jones averaged 6.0 yards on three attempts, and Agnew, 5.8 yards on four boots. The rookie also fumbled one out of bounds.