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Khyri Thornton admits 'mistake' leading to suspension, looking to future

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Khyri Thornton had signed a two-year deal to stay with the Detroit Lions this offseason. He appeared on the cusp of making a major move into the rotation, locking up the No. 3 or No. 4 defensive tackle spot.

Then he was suspended for six games by the NFL for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He's been around all preseason but has declined to talk with the media until Tuesday, when he briefly spoke with ESPN.

He declined to address the actual suspension, saying his agent, Rodney Edwards, would address it. Edwards told ESPN on Tuesday "we are leaving that in the past," and moving on from the incident. He declined to go into specifics about why his client was suspended.

Thornton did say, "it’s my fault" and that he's planning on staying in Detroit to work out during the suspension. He'll be eligible to return after the Lions face New Orleans on Oct. 15 -- the same week of the team's bye.

In practices during training camp, Thornton was rarely with the first team and sometimes not even with the second team. He understood why that was happening -- even if it had little to do with his actual skill.

"I just understand the position I'm in and the situation I'm in," Thornton said. "And you got to get the other guys opportunities to show they can make plays, because I won't be around for six weeks. So I understand me not taking reps with first team or second team.

"It's my fault and I just have to continue to keep my head up, keep grinding and getting better every day."

This is Thornton's third team and it's by far the most productive he's been. After being drafted by Green Bay in the third round of the 2014 draft, he spent time with the Packers and Patriots before being claimed on waivers by the Lions midway through the 2015 season.

Last season he started six games for Detroit and appeared in 13, recording 19 tackles along with a sack and forced fumble. He's been competing with Ego Ferguson, Jordan Hill and rookie Jeremiah Ledbetter for a tackle spot behind starters Haloti Ngata and A'Shawn Robinson and key reserve Akeem Spence.

He said this camp hasn't been different for him with the suspension looming.

"I don't try to take it, look at it like that. I just try to take it day-by-day," Thornton said. "Try to get better every day. I never know what's going to happen with the situation so I just try to give it my all, give it my best.

"I don't really worry about too much of that. A mistake in the past and I just have to live and learn from it and make myself a better player."