Detroit’s Backus retires after 12 seasons

Jeff Backus played 12 years for the Detroit Lions, missing only

one game while enduring some of the franchise’s most difficult

days.

His perseverance was finally rewarded with a playoff appearance

two seasons ago, and now the durable offensive lineman is

comfortable calling it a career.

”It’s time for me to hang up my cleats and retire,” Backus

said in a statement Thursday. ”It’s a bittersweet moment, but I’m

content knowing I gave everything I had, played as hard as I could

and tried my best to live up to the standards I believe in.”

Backus was with the Lions his whole career after being drafted

in the first round out of Michigan in 2001. He started his first

186 games – plus one playoff game – before a hamstring injury

forced him to miss last year’s Thanksgiving matchup against the

Houston Texans.

”He’s been a fixture on Saturdays or Sundays in the fall in

Michigan for almost half his life,” team president Tom Lewand

said. ”We have nothing but the greatest amount of respect for him

and all he’s done for this organization as a player and as a

person.”

With Backus gone, Riley Reiff could step in at left tackle.

Reiff was Detroit’s first-round pick in 2012. Gosder Cherilus,

another former first-round pick, left the Lions to sign with the

Indianapolis Colts.

In 2011, Backus broke Hall of Fame cornerback Dick LeBeau’s team

record when he made his 172nd consecutive start. Detroit went 0-16

in 2008, but the franchise’s fortunes began improving after that

season, and they finally made the playoffs three years later.

Through those ups and downs, Backus took the field with

professionalism, weekend after weekend.

”He’s got a super-human pain tolerance,” Lewand said. ”He was

always about getting the job done. I don’t know that there’s

anybody whose work ethic better embodied this city and this state

than Jeff Backus.”

After acquiring free agents Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason

Jones on Wednesday, the Lions took some time Thursday to focus on

some of their returning players. Detroit re-signed Pro Bowl long

snapper Don Muhlbach to a one-year contract.

Before they announced Backus’ retirement, Detroit held a news

conference for cornerback Chris Houston, who agreed Wednesday on a

five-year deal to stay with the Lions.

”A lot of times with the flurry of activity that we had

yesterday, the signing of your own player can sort of fall through

the cracks,” coach Jim Schwartz said. ”We wanted to make sure

that didn’t happen with Chris Houston. He’s been a three-year

starter for us, and he was someone who was very important for us to

get under contract to move ahead with our defense.”

Of course, Houston was quickly asked what he thought of

Detroit’s new signings. He played against Bush in college when the

running back was at Southern California. Houston’s Arkansas team

lost 70-17 to the Trojans in 2005.

”I’m a fan of the game and I’ve been a fan of Reggie Bush since

college – since he was burning us when I was at Arkansas,” Houston

said. ”I’m just thinking about how special our offense can be with

him.”

If Bush is known for his flash, Backus was pretty much the

opposite. He quietly went about his business for a dozen years –

and it felt appropriate that he retired via a written statement

instead of holding a loud send-off.

”To the fans of Detroit, I thank you for the support and

loyalty you have shown the Lions and myself,” Backus said. ”You

deserve a winner.”