(ALLEN PARK) - Lions tight end Stephen Alexander is showing all the skills the Lions were lacking from a tight end last season - strong blocking, sticky hands and some athletic ability.
Alexander looks around and sees players like first round draft picks Roy Williams, last year's first round pick Charles Rogers, former prize free agent signee Az-Zahir Hakim and newly acquired Tai Streets and is almost overwhelmed by the speed and talent in the receiving corps.
"We have so much speed out there with [Williams] and Rogers and Az Hakim," said Alexander. "I think when you have so much speed outside, it's only going to help us inside, help our running game and keep people off-balance and that's the name of the game."
With all that speed in the receiving corps maybe teams pay so much attention to those guys that they forget about the tight end?
"That's what we're hoping," laughed Alexander. "I mean those guys are such great players, extremely fast and got a lot of speed on the outside. We're just going to go out and do our part in the middle of the field, help get this run game going and hopefully just get on a little role and get this offense going."
But Alexander isn't chopped liver. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder six-year veteran was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2000 after stacking up 47 catches for 510 yards and two touchdowns for the Washington Redskins. Alexander had been selected as an alternate in 1999.
After coming into the league as a second round pick from Oklahoma, he left Washington and signed a hefty five-year deal with the San Diego Chargers in 2002, but things quickly went downhill from there. The injury bug bit the veteran tight end. He suffered a leg injury in 2001 and played in just seven games. He regained a measure of his health in 2002 and caught 45 balls for the Chargers for 510 yards, but suffered a foot injury that limited his production.
In 2003, the bottom fell out. Alexander suffered the dreaded "sports hernia" injury, which is one of the slowest injuries from which to recover. Detroit's Kalimba Edwards was unable to produce from the same injury which limited him to just two sacks last year after producing 6.5 his rookie season. Alexander found himself on the outside looking in.
"I started feeling pain in March of last year once I had the surgery and did the proper rehab, and got it strong again, I mean I feel great now. But it is, it is a frustrating injury and it takes time. There's no quick cure for it. There's nothing you can take, nothing you can do. Sometimes you just have to get a little rest and that was the case.
Was he forgotten about after sitting out so long?
"The show's got to go on," Alexander rationalized. "You really can't fault [management]. They have to go out, plug new people and change what they've got to change. But it's just frustrating as a player having to sit on the sidelines and watch.
Alexander believes he has a great opportunity though in Detroit and wants to stay and get back to playing at his Pro Bowl level.
"I think that's why I'm here, when healthy, in my opinion, I think I can do what any [other tight end] can. That's what I'm working for. I'm just going to go out and work hard everyday and keep my fingers crossed that everything goes well and that I can stay healthy and see where we go."
Lions fans are hoping that Alexander helps them to go somewhere they haven't been in a while -- to the playoffs.
Tight end Alexander "forgotten man" in offense?
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Scout NFL Network08/24/2016