Artose Pinner had been all but forgotten about.
After rejoining the team during the off-season from Atlanta (he played for Detroit from 2003-2005), Pinner's presence in Detroit was overshadowed by drafting of running back Kevin Smith, the release of running back Kevin Jones, the unexpected return of Tatum Bell. Somewhere in all that mess, the question regarding Detroit's offensive backfield didn't include Pinner.
Heck, even Brian Calhoun -- a former third-round pick from two-years ago -- has cracked media attention. But not Pinner. Not until now.
In last Sunday's win over Cincinnati, Pinner ran hard and ran well. Entering his sixth season, Pinner led all runners with 52 yards on 12 carries. Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli wasn't surprised by the performance.
"We know he's a good runner," said Marinelli. "He's a good, tough runner. He showed that in the first game too ... he's a physical player.
"He had some good runs. He really did. He's really a good vertical runner. He gets that step -- boom! He gets uphill right now. I like that about him. Every time he gets opportunities he's been productive, and he's got to be productive in the special teams and that's very important."
The Lions like Pinner's style of running. His hard-nosed, north-to-south mentality gives the team a true powerback -- but that's if he makes the team. But Marinelli admitted it would take more than just his running exploits to earn a roster spot. With Bell and Smith virtually guaranteed spots, Pinner is battling with Aveion Cason and Brian Calhoun. Cason is a special teams stud, while Calhoun has youth and is still considered an investment by the team.
Pinner has his work cut out for him.
"He's got run skill, no doubt about that," said Marinelli. "And I need a guy in those roles also to be an impact special teams player. That determines a lot for me. It could be that third back. The guy who gets the suit, he's got to impact the game special teams-wise and be a guy who can pick up the blitz and a guy who can run the ball and all of that."
The question arises whether or not the Lions will keep four running backs. The team already has a decision to make at the tight end position, and might keep as many as 10 defensive linemen. That could put Detroit in a precarious position should it prefer to keep more than three runners.
Considering the emphasis the team has put on the running game, it might not be a bad idea.
"They'll decide that next week or so," said Marinelli. "What I don't want to do is keep a guy for a depth number when there's a better player in another position at the very end. So I'm looking to get the best 53 players - maybe not the most talented - but the best guys to help us win. It might be a guy that can really do something special in special teams, might be a back who can do that, or a tight end. You have to get such an emphasis on that.
"So we'll take the best 53 football players."
In street clothes, I believe most football fans would be quite surprised by the physical look of a…