After a whirlwind offseason last spring and an injury-riddled first year in Detroit, Haloti Ngata is finally settling in to being a Lion.
Traded from the Baltimore Ravens amid a contract dispute last March, Ngata missed much of the offseason program with the Lions to be with his family in Maryland.
When he finally showed up for training camp in July, he did so with a strained hamstring that kept him off the field for most of the preseason and contributed to a September calf injury that cost him two regular-season games.
Ngata eventually moved his family to Michigan, and when he got healthy, he was one of the Lions’ best defensive players in the second half of last season.
Now, with his injuries behind him and his family by his side, Ngata is aiming for a big 2016.
“This is totally different,” Ngata said after the Lions’ finished their first week of organized team activities on Thursday. “I’m here, family’s here so I don’t really have to worry about trying to find a house or where we’re going to stay, traveling back and forth. I’ve been here all offseason and it’s just been great.”
The Lions are counting on Ngata to play an important role on their deep defensive line this fall. He’s the team’s best interior run defender and pass rusher, and while his workload must be monitored a little more closely entering his 11th NFL season, he’s still capable of taking over games.
Beyond his contributions on the field, Ngata said he “definitely” is being counted on to provide more leadership up front.
“I’m really the oldest guy now with (Darryl) Tapp and JJ (Jason Jones) being gone,” Ngata said. “Now we got Wallace Gilberry, but he’s new here so it just makes it a bigger role for myself. But having guys like Ziggy (Ansah) and Devin (Taylor), who’s been here, it’s great to have those guys.”
Ansah, Taylor and Gilberry are locked in as the Lions’ top three defensive ends, but the rotation at tackle is more up in the air.
Along with Ngata, Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid return with starting experience, and Stefan Charles, Gabe Wright and rookie second-round pick A’Shawn Robinson also are in the mix for playing time.
Ngata called Charles “a beast,” said Robinson has impressed him with his approach to the game and praised the overall depth of the unit.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Ngata said. “Just to see the competition, how it rolls along, it’s going to be exciting. We have so many good guys — great guys — that can be great players. It’s going to be hard to tell who’s going to come out because we got so many good guys right now.”
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