WR Nate Burleson getting closer to return

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When you see Nate Burleson donning a Kevlar protective sleeve on his left forearm to protect his healing bones, then you know the Detroit Lions wide receiver is ready to start playing again.

When that is? He’s still not sure. When asked Thursday whether or not a return following the bye, when the Lions travel to Chicago to face the Bears on Nov. 10, was realistic, he appeared positive about that.

“I would say so,” Burleson said. “Like I said, I wanted to play last week, want to play this week and want to play the Cowboys game. If it was up to me, I would love to come back for the Cowboys game. I just don’t know if I can.

“It’s really up to the doctors. I really hate saying that because most injuries I can tough out and they don’t have any choice but to put me on the field. When dealing with this bone, I have to be smart.”

Burleson saw the multiple setbacks that has plagued New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a similar injury -- although Gronkowski didn’t break his forearm in a car accident while reaching to save some sliding Happy’s Pizza. So he is being extra careful because when he returns to the field, he wants it to be for good.

He said doctors have told him the bone has healed enough that there isn’t fear of infection and complication and now it is about healing, strengthening and arm rotation to have him return to the field.

Burleson, who had 19 catches for 239 yards before the injury, has worked catching tennis balls and said he can grip a football. Then, he said, he’ll eventually graduate to working with Nerf footballs to regain his route running and timing.

Then, when he’s ready, what Burleson calls the “Robocop” brace will go on and he will try and play again.

“I have to be smart because second half of the season is when we need to play well and when we need to be healthy,” Burleson said. “And I don’t plan on missing any more games until I’m retired.

“This whole sitting out thing is really getting old to me.”