The next time Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson puts his pads on, he will be 32 and coming off major leg surgery.
Burleson suffered a season-ending broken right leg in the Lions' Oct. 22 loss to the Chicago Bears.
He understands there is a possibility the Lions could move on without him. He understands that if receivers Ryan Broyles and Titus Young continue to grow and develop, they could make him expendable.
So how does Burleson react to that? For starters, he's going to rehab like a demon, making sure he's ready to compete in organized team activities next spring. But in the meantime, he is going to do all he can to make sure Broyles and Young continue to grow and develop.
"I talked bluntly to them," Burleson said. "I said with them balling out completely, it could leave me the odd man out. That's just the reality of the game. My job is not to focus on the future; it's truly just to focus on rehab.
"Once I heal up, I'm going to come back at a high level, and if my spot is secure on this team, then I'm going to continue do what I do and lead and be the person that I was before I got banged up. If it's not, then hopefully I'll put the young guys in a position where they can easily take my place."
Burleson was back at the practice facility Wednesday, still on crutches. He is already lifting weights and keeping his upper body in shape. He hopes to get rid of the crutches in early December and begin the long process of regaining strength.
"I'm ahead of schedule," he said. "I guess a lot of people say that, but as of right now, it's more patience with a broken bone. You've just got to let it fuse up and heal together."
He sustained a tibial fracture, a broken bone just under the knee, during the Monday night game against the Bears. The bone has been fused back together with five screws and a plate. Amazingly, there was no ligament damage.
"I had to go to a trauma orthopedist, and they said (the injury) is more common in car accidents because people lock their legs and because of the pressure and the force slamming up against their body that causes the fractures on the lower body," he said.
"I've never broken a bone in my life that severely, so it was weird to deal with. And then to see the pictures of the screws in there kind of freaked me out a little bit -- but I'll have a hell of a story to tell."
He still has two years left on his contract, and the Lions are expecting him to make a full recovery.
"I guess having a peace of mind comes from knowing the game," he said. "When you prepare yourself for what could possibly be ahead, it gives you a calm spirit, so I'm OK with it.
"I'm fine with having to prove my worth again. I'm fine with having to go out there and show people that I'm one of the best complements to Calvin Johnson there is."