ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Darren Fells offered an amusing reason for why, as a tight end, he has focused hard on blocking.
“Mostly because that’s the stereotype that basketball players can’t block,” he said.
The Detroit Lions hope the former basketball player can provide some help on offense. The 30-year-old Fells was one of three free-agent signings the team announced Saturday, along with cornerback D.J. Hayden and wide receiver Keshawn Martin. The Lions didn’t announce contract terms.
Fells was a rebounding standout at UC Irvine and played basketball in Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Finland and France before signing with Seattle in 2013. He ended up with the Arizona Cardinals, where he spent the past three seasons.
The 6-foot-7, 281-pound Fells played in 14 games last season, starting seven, and he had 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. The Lions can use an effective blocker who can play tight end, since Eric Ebron’s value is primarily as a pass catcher.
Hayden, a first-round draft pick in 2013 by the Oakland Raiders, played four seasons for them. He started only two games last season, when he had to deal with a hamstring injury.
That, however, was nothing compared to what happened to Hayden when he was a college player at Houston. In 2012, he nearly died when an on-field collision with a teammate in practice tore a blood vessel off the back of his heart.
“It kind of humbles you some,” he said Saturday. “Just a little thing as just walking, we just take for granted. Your legs can be taken from you any day now. We could die like any time. I’m just truly thankful and blessed to even be here.”
Martin, a Michigan native who played at Michigan State, is entering his sixth NFL season. He has 62 receptions for 685 yards and five touchdowns in his career.