Nate Burleson missed 10 games last season with a broken leg. He will have to sit for at least a few weeks in 2013, too, after breaking his arm in a single-car accident.
The Lions announced the unfortunate news Tuesday morning. Head coach Jim Schwartz later confirmed that Burleson fractured both bones in his left forearm and would require surgery. There was no alcohol involved in the crash, according to the team's release; the Detroit News reported that Burleson hit a median wall at around 2:25 a.m. ET after being distracted by "pizza falling off his front seat." Can't make this stuff up.
The Lions did not offer any timetable for Burleson's possible return, though it's safe to guess that the veteran receiver will miss a month or more.
Wow thoughts and prayers with my fallen teammate Nate Burleson wishing him a speedy recovery! Hate having to learn about this on ESPN
Burleson is coming off of one of his best games in his four seasons with the Lions. He caught six passes for a team-high 116 yards Sunday, as Detroit scored its first franchise win in Washington.
Without Burleson in the lineup, the Lions will have to lean on second-year receiver Ryan Broyles. He was kept on a strict snap count against the Redskins, in his first game back from a knee injury. (Broyles injured his other knee during his senior season at Oklahoma.) Broyles did make three catches for 34 yards in Week 3, and he had 22 grabs as a rookie prior to going down.
Though Broyles can man the slot, the Lions will need someone to step up outside -- Detroit used Burleson inside on three- and four-receiver sets and often slid him outside in two-receiver looks. Kris Durham, who saw 34 snaps versus the Redskins, would appear to be first up for that job. The Lions also have Patrick Edwards (fighting his own injury issues) as an option.
What they don't have is an injured reserve/return designation spot available. Special teams ace Montell Owens took that place after hurting his knee late in the preseason, so Burleson either has to stay on the active roster or be placed on injured reserve -- the latter would end his season.
With Burleson and later Broyles out last season, the Lions showed a lot of two tight end looks. They have the personnel to pull that off again, with rookie Joseph Fauria developing as a red-zone complement to Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Burleson, 32, has one year left on his current contract. He already works as an NFL Network analyst in the offseason, so his post-career course seems set. And this recent rash of injuries might convince him to head off into the sunset a little sooner than he initially planned.