ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions are toying with the idea of a new return man.
Veteran Bruce Ellington signed with the club this week, and confirmed Detroit has been giving him a shot at returner as well as receiver.
“I’m definitely doing returns, I’m definitely returning punts,” he said after practice on Friday.
The Lions have used a variety of return men this season because of injury and performance issues. Jamal Agnew was an All-Pro punt returner last year, but averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt this year before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury. And he was replaced as the kick returner even before he got hurt.
Ameer Abdullah got a shake at kick returner, but fumbled against Seattle and was cut this week. Rookie Brandon Powell started at kick and punt returner last week, but is averaging just 4.0 yards on two punt returns and 21.5 yards on two kick returns for the year.
Ellington, on the other hand, has averaged 7.9 yards per punt return and 25.6 yards per kick return in his five-year career.
“I did returns all my career,” he said. “Wherever they put me, I’m down for it.”
Ellington, 27, originally enrolled at South Carolina as a basketball player. He joined the football team in 2011, and wound up going in the fourth round to San Francisco in 2014. His best season came in Houston last year, when he caught 29 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns.
He could factor into the slot with Detroit, which has dealt Golden Tate to Philadelphia. Theo Riddick and TJ Jones got most of the snaps there last week, but they struggled to make a difference, especially on third down.
And of course, there are considerable needs on special teams.
“I’m ready to just get back on the field,” Ellington said. “That whole situation I was in with IR, getting released, I was ready to just got out here, hopefully make the team.”