(ALLEN PARK) - If you're waiting for the unveiling of rookie running back Artose Pinner
to jump start the Lions weak rushing attack, don't hold your breath.
Pinner, who has been unable to even practice with the team to date, is eligible to come off the PUP list and join the active roster anytime after the six-week period that coincides with the bye week on Sunday. But Pinner is still suffering from the effects of injury and is still noticeably limping.
The best Pinner has been able to do is some individual drills, but the result is soreness and swelling of the ankle he broke in last year's Senior Bowl game.
While Lions head coach Steve Mariucci is holding out hope that the rookie fourth-round draft pick will be able to be a factor at some point this season, he's becoming more and more pessimistic.
"We'd like to activate him at some point," said Mariucci. "To me, he seems like he's limping a little bit but after he gets warmed up a little bit he moves around pretty good. I don't know if he's limping out of habit or he's limping because he hurts. I think it's getting better and we'd sure like to see him."
But Detroit will not risk bring Pinner back unless he is able to withstand the pounding
he would take in the NFL and Mariucci admitted that the injured reserve list is a distinct
"We'll have to play that one by ear and see how that feels. Hopefully, in another week or two or three, we'll say 'Let's do it, let's see what you've got.' If he can't do it, we can put him on IR then. But I think we're going to give him a shot first."
The Lions have a lot invested in Pinner because they've passed on several chances to find a backup or replacement to veteran James Stewart who has likely played his last game in a Lion uniform.
They passed on star running back Clinton Portis out of the University of Miami when they had a chance to draft him in the second round of the 2002 draft. Instead Detroit opted for defensive end/linebacker Kalimba Edwards from South Carolina. Portis quickly turned into one of the NFL's best running backs rushing for 1,508 yards in just 12 starts for Denver in his rookie season and in four starts this season has a 6.3 per carry average (rank No. 4 in AFC).
In the 2003 draft Detroit had an opportunity to grab Joey Harrington's former teammate at Oregon Onterrio Smith, but passed on Smith, instead opting for Pinner despite the fact that he was injured. The Minnesota Vikings (ranked No. 1 in NFC in rushing) grabbed Smith who has 34 carries for 156 yards this season, a 4.6 per carry average. Smith is a backup to veteran Moe Williams
Detroit (ranked No. 12 in NFC in rushing) is struggling with veterans Shawn Bryson
(rank No. 16 in NFC) and Olandis Gary (rank No. 20 in NFC) as their main rushing threats.
Even if Pinner is able to return, he isn't likely to be the every down back Detroit needs. Pinner appears to more readily fit the mold of the 3rd down, change of pace back. Ideally a player in the mold of Oregon State's junior running back Steven Jackson, the NCAA's leading rusher, a big physical back (6' 3", 229-lbs) with speed is what Detroit really needs.
Jackson would likely be a top-five pick if he declares himself eligible for the 2004 draft.