ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Stephen Peterman overcame an unlucky break and long stretches on the practice squad to earn a starting job on the Lions' offensive line last season. Now he's working to stay there.
The four-year veteran's story is a good one, but the coaching staff says he can be even better now that he's put a serious injury and long periods of inactivity behind him.
"I went through some tough times because I was hurt and I wasn't on the field," the four-year veteran said. "That was the most miserable time of my life, but things worked out last season and my luck changed and I was able to take advantage of it."
He was a third-round draft choice by Dallas in 2004 after two all-SEC seasons at Louisiana State, but two torn knee ligaments suffered in the last preseason game landed him on the Cowboys' injured reserve list. Even after recovering, he never caught on there.
The Lions signed him to their practice squad midway through the 2006 season, and he made his first career starts at right guard in the team's final two games.
He was inactive for Detroit's first three games last fall but entered the starting lineup for the injured Damien Woody in week 4 and never left the unit.
Woody returned from the injury but played right tackle, leaving Peterman starting alongside the man he'd backed up at the start of training camp.
"I don't think Pete got a good opportunity (in Dallas), but that's all in the past," offensive line coach Mike Barry said Sunday. "He battled Damien Woody all through camp last year and when he got his chance, he took it."
The 6-foot-4-inch, 323-pound guard should start the season between center Dominic Raiola and either George Foster or Gosder Cherilus on the right side of the line. Barry and offensive coordinator Jim Colletto say they're hoping he's more consistent now that he's earned the starting spot.
"The biggest thing with him is consistency," Barry said. "He's a big, physical guy and he just needs to use leverage and bend his knees, because when he gets up high he loses all that strength and power."
That's especially important in Colletto's zone rushing scheme, which the Lions hope will erase memories of last season, when Detroit was one of the NFL's worst running teams. So far, Peterman said the transition has been somewhat basic.
"Every offense has its own technique, but the biggest thing (with the new scheme) is everyone's got to work together. If someone misses, it all falls apart," he said. "It's a lot of things where all five guys have to be on the same page."
The Lions resume preseason play Sunday evening at Cincinnati. They open the regular season Sept. 7 at Atlanta.