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With extension hopes fading, Lions' Tate embraces mentoring potential replacement

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Golden Tate

Allen Park — If Brandon Powell is going to be end up Golden Tate’s replacement, the Detroit Lions veteran receiver has every intention of making sure the undrafted rookie is prepared for that responsibility.

“I’m going to teach Brandon Powell every lick of knowledge I can teach him to give him the best chance to succeed in this league because I think he is truly a great talent,” Tate said. “He excites me when I watch him and he reminds me of a young me, but even better. This guy doesn’t mess up very much.”

Tate, entering the final season of a five-year contract he signed with the Lions in 2014, said he hadn’t even considered the idea he was training his replacement until reporters brought it up in the locker room on Wednesday. But as a nine-year veteran on the cusp of earning a significant raise when he signs his next deal, Tate understands the economics of the league.

Under general manager Bob Quinn, the Lions have routinely signed key contributors to extensions at this time of the year, including the three-year pact inked by defensive back Quandre Diggs earlier this week. The window appears to be shutting on an extension for Tate, something he continues to hope works out even as he tries to bury the thoughts of it not happening in the back of his mind.

“I try not to think about it too much, man,” Tate said. “It might get to me, so I try not to think about it. I look around and it’s about winning. I’m on a team. For me to worry about my contract and raising hell about it, right now, it’s a selfish act.

“I’m trying to help this team win, because I might not remember the day I sign my next deal, but I will remember the special moments — a playoff berth, winning that game, winning games in the playoffs, winning a division, things like that.”

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The fact that the Lions opted to keep six receivers on the roster, including Powell, further hints on where the Lions might be leaning with Tate’s future.

Powell, undrafted out of Florida, was a revelation this offseason. Tate said he hasn’t been around an undrafted player who has looked this good since playing with Doug Baldwin in Seattle.

Undrafted out of Stanford in 2011, Baldwin has been selected to the past two Pro Bowls and was a second-team All-Pro in 2015.

Brandon Powell

Powell, a lightning-quick 5-foot-8, 181-pounder, proved a tough assignment in the slot, leading the Lions with 16 receptions in the preseason. He also showcased some potential as a return man, returning a punt 80 yards for a touchdown against Tampa Bay.

“It’s hard to learn this offense, no doubt,” Tate said. “This guy doesn’t say much, shows up, works his tail off, makes a bunch of plays for us. Look at the preseason, when the twos and threes are out there, quarterbacks are looking for BP. He’s making stuff on happen on offense and special teams.

“That young fella excites me and I’m going to pour all my knowledge into him.”

Earlier this week, Powell said he used to study Tate when he was still in Seattle. Several years later, Tate can see elements of his own skill set in his young teammate.

“I think the best thing about him, once he gets the ball in his hand, he’s kind of a like a running back,” Tate said. “He could be the YAC king. Some day.”

Tate was referencing Powell’s ability to gain yardage after the catch, the skill that’s been Tate’s bread and butter as a professional.

There is one, big difference between the two, according to Tate. At least where Powell is as a rookie compared to when Tate entered the league.

“I was hard-headed,” Tate said. “I was a knucklehead. I was worried about a lot of things other than football in Seattle. He’s very dialed in and very focused and wants this really bad. You can see it in how he practices and how he carries himself.”