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Lions counting on Smith, Pettigrew returning healthy

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Posted June 25, 2010 @ 8:57 a.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

A lot of eyebrows were raised when the Lions made a pre-draft deal to land TE Tony Scheffler and then traded up into Round One to select RB Jahvid Best. It appeared to send messages to TE Brandon Pettigrew, one of two first-round picks in 2009, and RB Kevin Smith, the team's starter for part of the past three seasons.

Not so.

The Lions wanted depth at both positions, but they also wanted more offensive firepower, which they believe the Scheffler and Best acquisitions provide. Smith lacks great speed, and with the Lions wanting to run the ball more — and more effectively — Best provides an injection of that into what has been a dormant run game. And with Scheffler, the team plans to use a lot of two-TE formations. He provides a little more seam speed than Pettigrew offers.

Coincidentally, both Smith and Pettigrew are coming off ACL injuries and they'll both be returning to the field sometime around the start of training camp. Smith got his feet wet at the team's final OTAs, and though he clearly was rusty there were some positive signs as he works his way back.

Pettigrew continues to work on the side and he almost certainly will start camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. He has progressed slowly, which has been a little disappointing considering his injury happened three weeks prior to Smith's. But the team is not upset with Pettigrew and doesn't believe he will miss any regular-season time.

Both players will be important pieces to the offense, though their impact might not be as dramatic considering the hurdles they have to overcome. Scheffler and Best likely will open camp getting most of the first-team work at their respective positions, and neither Pettigrew nor Smith are considered explosive offensive players with the ball in their hands.

But once they return, the expectation is that they will help the Lions achieve their goal of being a more physical team this season. Smith runs extremely hard through contact and will be valuable on short-yardage and fourth-quarter touches. Pettigrew is considered an emerging force as a blocker and he can be a factor as a red-zone weapon.

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