Lions Eager To Welcome Back Schlesinger

After suffering a broken fibula several weeks ago, Lions' fullback Cory Schlesinger is finally nearing a return. And the Detroit Lions couldn't be more pleased.

ALLEN PARK -- After suffering a broken fibula several weeks ago, Lions' fullback Cory Schlesinger is finally nearing a return.

And the Detroit Lions couldn't be more pleased.

The 11-year veteran, who injured his leg in Detroit's August exhibition tilt with the Jets, has been utilizing the team's underwater treadmill rigorously for the last two weeks. With Sunday's matchup with 3-0 Tampa Bay looming, Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci was non-commital as to whether or not 'Sledge' would dress

"When you have an injury you can come out with some sort of prognosis and say 'well, 6-8 weeks' and the Tampa game is seven," said Mariucci following Monday's practice. "We will just have to wait and see how it feels. I want him to have a pretty decent week of practice before we put him out there.

"If he doesn't have a considerable about of practice this week, then I am not sure we will put him out there."

But the temptation is very real -- and legitimate.

Without the services of Schlesinger, the Lions have struggled mightily in the running department. Second-year running back Kevin Jones has just 109 rushing yards in two games, the team total is just 131, and the running game has tallied just 3 total first downs.

It is a problem that afflicted the Lions' passing attack in a 38-6 loss at Chicago, and the return of Detroit's lead blocker certainly wouldn't hurt.

Asked if the offense missed Schlesinger, Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington responded with a resounding "Of course!"

"Cory is the rock of our ground game," he said. "He is the lead back and he is the guy that everybody follows, but Paul (Smith) has done a good job in there and he has given us some things that Cory doesn't, but we want to get Cory back as soon as we can."

Mariucci admitted that Schlesinger's absence has affected the offense, but that his loss was felt in other ways, too.

"He is our starting fullback," said Mariucci. "He has been playing about 50-percent of the snaps from that spot on offense and of course he is a hardcore special teams player and he is capable of starting on all four - but we don't let him do that if he is a starting fullback. He is always going to be on two or three (special teams), so you lose a special teams player.

"We will have Cory back here soon, whether it is this week or not, I don't know that it will be this week."

Notes: The Lions practiced in pads on Monday, the team's first action since a four-day hiatus. The ball club will begin preparations for Tampa Bay on Wednesday, including studying game film and analyzing the Buccaneers' personnel. Receiving help? Former receiver and NFL veteran Shawn Jefferson has been given an extension on his assistant coaching internship. The Lions enjoyed Jefferson's sound advice to their young receiving core, and invited more of it. "We decided to extend his internship and get him back here," acknowledged Mariucci. "He did a nice job. He just came in today to help out. He is a guy that is aspiring to be a coach and learn what we are doing. He is willing to help."

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