Detroit Lions receiver Nate Burleson broke his arm in a single-car accident early Tuesday after he reached over to keep two pizza boxes from falling off the front passenger seat, authorities said.
Burleson's car hit a center median wall on a highway in suburban Detroit and he was taken to a hospital. Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said there were no indicators of alcohol on the scene or on Burleson's person after the crash at 2:25 a.m.
Coach Jim Schwartz stopped short of writing off the rest of Burleson's season, but surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.
"It's not an emergency surgery," Schwartz said. "Nate'll be back at some point, and when he will, he will be a big contributor again to our team."
The team didn't say which arm was broken.
Burleson has a team-high 19 catches — 10 for first downs — and his 239 yards receiving trail only teammate Calvin Johnson this season. The 11-year veteran had six receptions for 116 yards, his highest total since 2007, on Sunday to help Detroit win at Washington for the first time in franchise history.
"Any time you're in a highway accident, there's potential for worse than broken bones," Schwartz said. "I think we've all dealt with some sort of distraction driving before. I've cured myself of texting and driving. I did for about two months — and now I've got that SYNC thing with the Fords. I never even touch my cellphone in the car, but one thing that I probably need to cure myself of is eating and driving.
"There's too many times I leave the office real late at night, and you grab something — and I've had it happen to me — drop it on your lap or do something else. That's stuff we all need to learn from."
The Lions signed Burleson in 2010 to complement Johnson, and he has done that when healthy. He had 128 receptions for 1,382 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons in Detroit. Burleson, a charismatic presence on and off the field, is also one of the team's leaders.
"It's tough," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Obviously Nate had a great game last game. He's been a big part of our team since he's been here."
Burleson broke his right leg last year at Chicago and missed the last 10 games of the season. He bounced back this year by making six catches in the season-opening victory against Minnesota, one of his former teams, and had seven receptions in a Week 2 loss at Arizona. He has 437 career receptions for 5,408 yards and 38 TDs with the Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Vikings.
Burleson is set to be honored next month as the Lions' 2013 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. The award honors players as they overcome a hardship.
"I was thinking about it: It is hard to see a guy fight so hard to come back so quick. Came back beyond 100 percent to me," center Dominic Raiola said. "And then this happens. It is hard, but Nate's a fighter, and he'll come back again."
Detroit (2-1) likely will have to lean on other secondary receivers, such as second-year pro Ryan Broyles, on Sunday at home against the Chicago Bears (3-0) in a matchup of the top two teams in the NFC North.
Broyles played 10 games last season, but he went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He also tore the ACL in his left knee when he was a senior at Oklahoma.
Now one of his teammates is dealing with a major injury of his own.
"A guy that I look up to, a guy that's produced for this offense, to go down — it's unfortunate," Broyles said.
Detroit's depth chart at receiver also includes Kris Durham, Micheal Spurlock and Patrick Edwards, who was inactive with an ankle injury in Sunday's win.
The Lions also lost defensive lineman Jason Jones for the season after he hurt a knee against Washington. Running back Reggie Bush missed that game because of his own knee problems.