Pettigrew, Smith on comeback trail in Detroit

A couple of the young and key cogs in the Detroit Lions offense showed promise on the practice field Thursday during the team’s third OTA session.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, a first-round draft pick last year, and running back Kevin Smith, a third-round choice in 2008, both looked smooth doing individual drills as they each work their way back from torn ACLs in their left knee.

Pettigrew and Smith were both wiped out last season, frustrating setbacks in the first season for coach Jim Schwartz. The club has covered itself at each position. The Lions swung a bargain of a trade to land veteran tight end Tony Scheffler from the Denver Broncos. Then, Detroit traded up into the bottom of the first round to draft Cal running back Jahvid Best. The newcomer is expected to carry the load this season but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good role for Smith.

"They're still not even close to being cleared for team work and competitive stuff," Schwartz said. "But yeah, they're not right in the middle of a long-term rehab, but they're probably more past the middle. But they still have a long way to go.

"They've done well in their rehabs. There's been no setbacks. Hopefully by the time training camp comes they'll be able to be on the field and not have very many limitations."

Both players have said they plan to be ready for the start of training camp, but my experience is that the next athlete you find that will announce they are behind schedule in returning from an ACL injury will be the first. Still, it’s progress for a young offense in need of it.

Pettigrew still figures to be the primary tight end. Best is expected to be the man quickly though.

"I'm always excited to compete," Smith said. "I thought it was a good pick. They are bringing in a guy who could potentially make plays. So, when he gets out here, we'll compete at practice. But when we line up on Sundays, everybody needs each other and that's the goal."

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