Always available, Backus will start his 172nd game at New Orleans Sunday

Posted Dec 3, 2011

When Jeff Backus steps on the field Sunday night in New Orleans to start his 172nd consecutive football game, he’ll break the Lions’ all-time record set by Hall-of-Fame corner Dick LeBeau.

But there were a couple times Backus thought he’d never get to this point.

There was the incident in Philadelphia in 2007 when he hurt a rib in pregame.

“I probably shouldn’t have played that game,” he said Friday looking back. “It happened during the pregame and you go in and get taped up and really don’t know how bad it is because it happened right before a game.”

Backus almost missed the following game against the Bears with the same injury but fought through it to keep the streak alive.

He said a high-ankle sprain almost cost him a start in 2005, too.

This offseason, Backus tore a pectoral muscle while working out.

“When I tore my peck this summer I didn’t know if that was going to work out,” he said.

Backus missed half of training camp but, like always, was back on the field when the games mattered in the regular season.

“You know, Jeff has always been available and number one, you have to have the ability to start for that long,” said coach Jim Schwartz. “Left tackle is a tough job. There’s marquee pass rushers every week, there’s a lot of responsibility to play that position; it’s not a position that you can sort of disappear on the field.

“To be available for that long and also to be talented enough to play for that long—there’s something to that. And there’s also the consistency of what you do. From a personality standpoint, you have to be very consistent in your preparation and things like that and Jeff is all those things.”

Backus’ teammates would probably call him boring.

“Being consistent is a good thing and I know guys know that they can count on me,” he said. “Sometimes they give me a hard time because I kind of get into a routine of always doing the same things. But that’s how I do things.”

Backus has been doing it that way dating back to his days at the University of Michigan. He started 49 straight for Michigan from 1997-2000, one shy of the school record set by Jon Jansen. That means Backus has played in 220 consecutive football games dating back to 1997.

Lions fans might have a love/hate relationship with their long-time left tackle, but there’s no denying his durability and consistency.

“Absolutely I’m proud of it, but I’m not getting caught up in it,” he said of the streak. “You guys (media) are making a bigger deal of it than probably I want it to be.”

For Backus, it’s simple.

If you can fight through the pain and play, play. If you’re going to hurt the team by being out there injured, don’t play.

“More than anything I think it’s a mindset,” he said. “You have to want to be able to push through injuries and deal with things and if you’re willing to do that then play through some of the stuff. I’ve been pretty lucky.”

Backus said he’s probable reached double-digits in the number of surgeries he’s had. But they’ve all been “cleanups” as he’s avoided major injury.

At his age (34) and at this point of his career, Backus said Friday that he could probably relate more to the coaches than he could most of his teammates.

But both his teammates and coaches can respect the fact that he’s always available on Sunday.