Lions, Caldwell happy to have Ngata back

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Phoenix — Earlier this month, it was reported that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata would be returning for a 12th season. It was implied, in the reports, the team wasn’t certain if Ngata would be back or opt for retirement.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said you just never know what a player is thinking after playing that long and a personal assessment is a normal process.

“I don’t know on the fence, but it’s logical, isn’t it?” Caldwell said. “It’s logical for someone who has been around as long as he has to really take account of where you are and make an assessment each and every year. It’s not unusual. I think everyone looks at it like it’s a crisis, but this is a tough game. It’s a physical ball game and guys have to take a look at where they are after a certain number of years.

“We’re glad that he’s coming back.”

It would be silly to suggest that Ngata, 33, has been the same, dominant player he was in Baltimore, when he earned All-Pro honors five times, but Caldwell said the veteran defensive tackle is still a force inside.

“Strong, tough, still has the same kind of desire and work ethic,” Caldwell said.

The coach also praised Ngata’s leadership, helping with the development of young players like Kerry Hyder.

In two seasons since being acquired by the Lions via a trade, Ngata has started 27 games, recording 46 tackles and four sacks while batting down six passes.