Originally written on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/20/14
With Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, there's denial. He's not making excuses. His drops and fumbles were a significant part of the Lions' slide last season that ended with a 4-12 record and an eight-game losing streak, and he knows it. "By far, the most frustrating year that I've had," Pettigrew said. "You guys know why. You've seen the negative stuff that I did. "There was some positive, but to me, the negatives really kind of stick out. It just got me last year." Pettigrew doesn't hide from his failures when he's asked about them. Otherwise, though, he says he's moved on. "I'm over last season," he insisted. "I'm focused on what I need to correct." Pettigrew, 28, is entering a crucial contract year personally. His original rookie deal - five years for 5.1 million after being the No. 20 pick overall in 2009 coming out of Oklahoma State - expires after this coming season. Whether the Lions make re-signing him a priority, and for how much, will be largely determined by his performance this year. Some athletes are at their best when a new contract is on the line. "It's not just because it's my contract year and now it's time for me to go harder," Pettigrew said. "I've approached the other years just as hard. "But, obviously, I feel like I've got a little bit more to prove considering I had a down year last year." Pettigrew can't afford another season like 2012 when he finished with the league's third-highest drop rate among tight ends (13.2 percent, nine drops on 68 catchable passes), according to ProFootballFocus.com. His bobbles often could be traced as turning points in another tough loss for the Lions, which led to boos and criticism of Pettigrew from the fans at Ford Field: - A third-and-goal pass in the end zone slipped through his hands against Minnesota, one of his two dropped touchdowns on the season.- A fumble in Houston territory in overtime ended a drive that quite possibly could have won the game for Detroit.- A strip at Tennessee turned into a 72-yard fumble return for a touchdown in another overtime loss. That's too many major blunders for one man in a 16-game NFL season. After averaging 77 receptions for nearly 750 yards each the previous two years, Pettigrew was held to 59 catches for 567 yards and three touchdowns. Nagging injuries, including a sprained ankle that forced him to miss two games, were part of the equation. However, Pettigrew has had problems hanging onto the ball in other years, too. Concentration seems to be the issue. "It's just trying to make a play happen too fast and you don't look the ball in," he said. "A lot of times, that's what it is." Pettigrew's size (listed at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, although he's a little leaner this year) and long arms are two of his greatest assets as a tight end. But, at the same time, they create problems for him, according to Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Pettigrew can go up and reach balls that defenders can't get to, but can he secure them? "What is a strength for him, his length, is also something that presents things that he needs to work on and he's worked very hard at those things," Schwartz said. "It takes a long time when you catch a ball to bring it in. A guy that's 6-3 and has short arms, the ball's in his frame a little bit easier." Without question, Pettigrew has the size and athletic ability to create mismatches. He's also a standout blocker in an era when many top tight ends are only good pass catchers. All that seems to be keeping Pettigrew from establishing himself as one of the top talents at his position is that ability to consistently hang on to ball, especially in key situations. But until he fixes that problem, which is a very big problem, Pettigrew is going to continue to be a primary source of frustration for Lions' fans.
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