ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are competing for playing time at wide receiver.
That doesn't mean there's any bad blood between the two Detroit Lions, both of whom are trying to bounce back from a 2012 season halted by injury.
"I don't know if I'm just too much of a big brother, but when he plays well, I'll get a smile on my face," Burleson said. "I'm happy that he's playing at a high level."
Burleson is the veteran, a 31-year-old entering his 11th season in the NFL. Broyles is coming off a rookie year that looked promising at times. If both players are healthy, the Lions will have valuable options at receiver opposite star Calvin Johnson.
Burleson played only six games last season because of a broken right leg. Broyles played 10, but he went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He also tore the ACL in his left knee when he was a senior at Oklahoma.
"I'm not the guy that's going to lay down," Broyles said Thursday. "I'm a pretty positive guy. I just work as hard I can to make the best of any situation."
Detroit will probably have a formidable passing game as long as Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford are on the field, but it's a lot easier for opponents to key on Johnson if the rest of the receiving corps is decimated. Last season, Detroit relied a lot on a tight end (Brandon Pettigrew) and a running back (Joique Bell) for supplementary pass catching.
Johnson was the only wide receiver on the Lions with more than 33 catches and Titus Young, who had 33, is no longer with the team. Burleson caught 27 passes for 240 yards. He had 73 receptions the previous season, when Detroit reached the playoffs. Burleson restructured his contract in the offseason and hopes to prove he has plenty left to contribute.
"I'm coming along good," he said. "It's different, being 21 and 31. At 21, I can run out here, no stretch, no nothing, and do it all. Now, at 31 ... it takes a little bit to get the engine started, but once it's moving, I'm on the freeway."
Broyles caught 22 passes for 310 yards as a rookie. He had six catches for 126 yards in a Thanksgiving loss to Houston — but played only one more game after that. Now, he's trying to overcome another knee injury, so he can get on with what could still be an impressive career.
"You've got to train your muscles all over again," the 25-year-old Broyles said. "That's part of what I'm doing right now, but that was expected after a knee injury."
The Lions had an off day Wednesday and those can be helpful at this stage for players coming back from injuries.
"I thought today was a really good day for Ryan," coach Jim Schwartz said Thursday. "He's much further ahead than when he was, this time last year — and he really came on last year."
Neither Broyles nor Burleson will need to shoulder too much of the responsibility. Johnson remains as good a No. 1 target as any team can boast, and with him in his prime — and offseason acquisition Reggie Bush in the backfield — there should be plenty of opportunities for other receivers to race through the secondary.
"As long as Calvin's healthy, we're going to be the best background dancers this talent show's ever seen," Burleson said.