Detroit Lions’ Jamal Agnew chasing coach’s TD return record, but being smart about it

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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At this rate, it might take a few seasons — or more — but Detroit Lions return man Jamal Agnew is gunning for his coach’s touchdown record.

Agnew said Wednesday that he and Lions assistant Leon Washington have a friendly, ongoing dialogue about their prowess as return men.

Washington, now in his first season with the Lions, returned eight kicks for touchdowns in his nine-year career, tied for the most in NFL history.

Agnew has four career return touchdowns in three-plus seasons, three of them on punts, and has proven to be dangerous enough that teams have been reluctant to kick him the ball this fall.

“He definitely pushes me,” Agnew said. “We talk back and forth a little bit. I keep telling him I’m going to catch him. I’m going to catch him, but it’s just going to take time. I’ve got to make the smart play, make the great decisions, and it’ll come.”

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Agnew has had few return opportunities during the Lions’ 1-3 start.

He has more fair catches (three) than punt returns (two) this season, though he’s averaging 17.5 yards per return. And he’s brought just seven kickoffs out of the end zone.

“It’s actually really frustrating,” Agnew said. “(Washington) always preaches to me just be patient, those opportunities are going to come, and it’s been helping me a lot. Obviously, in the past I’ve tried to force some stuff, but thankfully for Lee — I call him Lee — he helps me stay a little even keel, stay a little patient.”

Though Washington returned his last kick for a touchdown when Agnew was still in high school, Agnew said Washington was one of the return men he grew up trying to emulate.

“I would see Leon on SportsCenter all the time taking stuff 8 (yards) deep in the end zone and it was like, ‘I want to do that,'” he said. “It’s just surreal like being on the same team as him, getting coached up by him. Like I said, I’m just grateful to have Leon there on my side.”

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The Lions have yet to give Agnew carte blanche to return kicks whenever he sees fit, and Agnew said he understands why. He’s trying to make the most of the 15 or so offensive snaps he gets a game, and trying to be patient for the right opportunity on special teams.

“Me, I want to take it out every time, but the NFL’s a field position game so you’ve got to be smart, make the right decisions,” he said. “That’s one of the most important qualities of being a good return man. A great returner is just making good decisions. I’m trying to do the best I can to do that.”

Week 6 injury update

Desmond Trufant is dealing with a hamstring injury again.

Trufant left the second half of the Lions’ Week 4 loss to the New Orleans Saints after aggravating an injury that kept him out of two September games, and the veteran cornerback did not practice Wednesday.

Trufant, who the Lions signed to replace Darius Slay this offseason, has played just 92 snaps this season, fewer than fellow cornerbacks Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah and Darryl Roberts.

Tight end Hunter Bryant, who missed the first four games with a hamstring injury, did not practice Wednesday because of a brain injury, while C.J. Moore (calf), Christian Jones (knee) and Frank Ragnow (groin) were limited.

The Jaguars (1-4) were without starting receivers D.J. Chark (ankle) and Laviska Shenault (hamstring).

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. 

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