Backus’ consecutive starts streak in jeopardy
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola shakes his head when he thinks back to when teammate Jeff Backus suffered a torn biceps during the playoffs last season.
“He was trying to wrap it and go back in the game,” Raiola said. “There was like a minute left in the game and we were down two or three scores. That will give you an example into the mind of Jeff Backus.”
Backus’ streak of 186 consecutive starts at left tackle — every game during his 12-year career — is in serious jeopardy this week. Backus left Sunday’s game against Green Bay with a hamstring injury, missed practice Tuesday and is unofficially considered doubtful for Thursday’s game against Houston.
Backus, who wasn’t available for comment, has the third-longest active streak, behind only Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber (209 straight starts) and Washington linebacker London Fletcher (189).
Backus’ streak is actually 187 if you include the playoff game.
“I know he’s going to do everything he can,” Raiola said when asked if he thinks Backus will somehow find a way to play.
“More than the streak, he’s a person you can count on. His accountability level is unbelievable. I think it’s more that. I don’t think it’s the streak. I think it’s he wants to be out there with us. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Backus, a first-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2001, takes his share of criticism from fans, but his teammates have the utmost respect for him.
Raiola called the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Backus “a rock.”
Quarterback Matt Stafford said Backus is “an unbelievable professional.”
Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch added: “I don’t know if there’s a player in this league I have more respect for. Jeff Backus has played through tons of injuries. He doesn’t miss practice. He doesn’t complain. He’s been a true pro.”
Asked whether Backus’ status for the Thanksgiving game has been confirmed yet, coach Jim Schwartz said following Tuesday’s practice, “Nothing’s been ruled yet.”
If Backus can’t go, rookie Riley Reiff, a 6-6, 313-pound first-round draft pick, will start in his place. Reiff has gotten quite a bit of playing time lately in the role of a sixth offensive lineman.
He struggled, however, after replacing Backus at left tackle in the Green Bay game.
“I’m ready to go,” Reiff said. “You have to be ready. Something happens, you have to be ready to step up. Any time you get out on the field, you gain a little bit more knowledge, a little bit more experience.
“The guys in the O-line room, we’re all together. It’s one unit. Jeff’s a great guy. I listen to anything he says because he’s a smart player. I try to take as much advice from him as possible.”
Reiff, who grew up in South Dakota and went to college at Iowa, said he remembers watching the Lions in the traditional Turkey Day games.
“You watch the game a little bit and when you’re a little kid, you run out and try mimicking those players,” Reiff said. “It’s just special to play on Thanksgiving. I remember a lot of those games. I wasn’t a huge Lions’ fan at the time, but I remember watching them play.”
This time, he could become the first player other than Backus to start at left tackle for the Lions since the final game of the 2000 season.
Safety Louis Delmas, who has missed the last three games because of a knee injury, returned to practice Tuesday.
As for whether Delmas will play against Houston, Schwartz said, “I don’t know yet, to tell you the truth. He has a chance.”
Offensive guard Justin Boren, who played at Michigan before transferring to Ohio State, was signed to the Lions’ practice squad.