It sounds as if punt returner is not going to be the most hotly contested position as Lions training camp. Jeremy Ross will be the starter, according to Golden Tate.
“I want to do whatever I can to help this team,” Tate said to the Detroit Free Press.
“We have a really good punt returner now in Jeremy Ross, and I have a lot of confidence in him. So if they need me, I’ll be there. But as far as I’m concerned, he’s the punt returner. He’s a tremendous punt returner, too.”
Ross racked up 263 yards, one touchdown and a 15.5 yards per return average on 17 returns last season with Green Bay and Detroit last year.
Tate returned 51 punts for 585 yards and 11.5 yards per return. On paper, Ross appears the favorite. But all things aren’t held equal. Tate’s role as receiver seems to trump all the statistics and make his role in special teams even less likely.
It is often a relief for players to reduce their role on special teams to focus on their position. The NFL’s attempts to modify special teams serves as an indicator that it’s one of the more dangerous points of the game.
So if a player who has roles as a starter in another position can avoid that aspect of the game, they are greatly decreasing their possibility of getting injured.
Reggie Bush put it best: “I’d like to think I graduated from returning kicks and punts.”
So, too it seems, does Tate.