Lions safety Louis Delmas (26) intercepts a pass intended for Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the first quarter last Sunday at Ford Field. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Knock on wood if you must, but this statistic is too improbable to keep a secret for the sake of a weary superstition.
Safety Louis Delmas, who has missed 13 games the last two seasons with knee injuries, has played 273 of 275 defensive snaps for the Lions this season.
“That’s a credit to a lot of things,” Delmas said Tuesday. “The program they got me on, with the days on and days off, the things I do at home, all of the physical therapy, all of that has gone into helping me stay on the field.
“I give the coaches credit and the trainers credit for doing what they are doing to keep me right.”
A cynic would point to his incentive-laden two-year, $9.45 million contract as the motivating force behind Delmas’ sudden availability. Delmas was paid a $1 million signing bonus in May and guaranteed only his $715,000 base salary. He can earn another $109,000 per game if he plays 42 percent of the snaps.
But if you would talk to Delmas for more than two minutes you would understand that, one, every professional player plays for money, and two, this goes way deeper than money. To paraphrase what defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has said: There is no life for Delmas without football.
“He can’t lose football,” Cunningham said when Delmas was injured last season. “He’s one of those guys that needs that field behind him. He needs to be out there to keep him emotionally straight the rest of his life.”
Witness what Delmas puts himself through each week, each day, to get himself ready to play and play at a high level despite two knee surgeries and some near-crippling tendonitis in his left knee, and you won’t question his love for the game.
“It’s no days off,” he said. “The only day I actually get to enjoy my knee when there is no pain is Sundays. Other than that it’s sore, it’s having to strengthen it, having to ice it — it’s a hard process but the process is working.”
Delmas, at his own expense, has a hyperbaric chamber in his house that he uses daily. He has paid for some of his own physical therapy. While his actual on-field practice time is limited (he didn’t practice at all last week), he is taking treatment of some form on his knee every day.
“I think he is getting back in the swing,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We tried to be prudent with his training camp and the way we prepared him for this season. I think you’re starting to see him make plays.”
Delmas had the first two-interception game of his career last weekend against the Bears and he also contributed a couple tackles and three pass breakups.
“It felt great,” Delmas said. “The coaches made a big point about defensive backs in general, how the last time we touch the ball on game day might be in pregame. The emphasis has been that we need to find ways to get our hands on the ball. We are starting to do that.”
There is another factor that has helped keep Delmas on the field, one that has nothing to do with treatment or practice regimen — it’s his partner on the back end of the defense, Glover Quin.
Quin is the first fully developed and accomplished safety Delmas has played with since coming into the league. Where in the past, Delmas in most games had to cover the entire back end and essentially do the job of two safeties, he only has to worry about his own duties now.
So while he’s playing more snaps, he’s not putting the same stress on his body.
“The key has been the acquisition of No. 27 (Quin) and the kind of football player he is,” Cunningham told the team’s website. “He’s very unselfish. He’s a system guy. He plays within the scheme. He’s got great eyes. And Lou has noticed that too.
“I think there’s no question (having Quin) helps,” Cunningham said. “I haven’t seen Delmas move like that since the injury happened.”
And now comes Mr. Rodgers, as in Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Delmas has missed the last three games against the Packers and was injured early in the first meeting in 2011.
“I never really felt like I was a part of that tradition of losing over there (21 straight in Wisconsin), but I am a part of it now,” he said. “If it was up to me, I’d definitely do something about it. I am just going to go out there, give it my all and maybe we can get a win.”