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
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
”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
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
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
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.”