Haloti Ngata feels he has a lot to prove when he returns

Posted Aug 24, 2015

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata isn't sure when he'll be back on the field. But when he is ready to return, he says he has a lot to prove.

Haloti Ngata isn’t quite sure exactly when he’ll be back on the field due to a strained hamstring injury he’s been dealing with since before camp began. But when he is ready to return, he says he has a lot to prove to himself.

It’s hard to imagine a player like Ngata, who's played in five Pro Bowls and is entering his 10th season in the NFL, to enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but that’s exactly what he says he’s doing in his first season in Detroit.

Haloti NgataDT Haloti Ngata (Photo: Detroit Lions)

“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder because I got traded,” Ngata said Monday. “Somebody didn’t want me and going to a place that wants you is pretty awesome.

“So, definitely, I feel like I have a different attitude and mentality towards it, a trying to prove someone wrong kind of thing.”

Ngata spent his first nine seasons in Baltimore before being traded to Detroit on the first day of free agency back in March for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks. Ngata and the Ravens couldn’t come to terms on a new contract and he was ultimately a cap casualty for them.

The Lions moved quickly to get Ngata when they heard he was available after losing Ndamukong Suh to Miami in free agency. Ngata has one year left on his contract and counts $8.5 million on the Lions’ cap in 2015, but Lions GM Martin Mayhew has had talks with Ngata’s agent about an extension.

The priority for the Lions right now, however, is getting Ngata healthy and then seeing what he can do in their defense. Ngata can’t wait for that either because it's still a bit of a mystery.

Gone are the days of him being a two-gap space eater, which was his role the majority of the time in Baltimore. He’s going to play a lot of three-technique in Teryl Austin’s attacking defense. That means being a penetrator, getting in the backfield and being disruptive.

“I’m definitely excited watching our guys do it,” Ngata said. “Watching last year’s film of (Ndamukong) Suh and (Nick) Fairley and those guys. It’s definitely exciting.

“Watching film of a two-gap system looks weird to me now. I’m like, ‘Man, I used to do that stuff all the time.’ So, I’m way excited to do something different and something that’s definitely challenging because it’s something I haven’t done.”

Ngata says he’s eager to get back so he can immerse himself fully in the defense, but he’s also mindful of not rushing back too early and having the injury linger longer than it should. The Lions are still hopeful he’ll be back on the field Week 1 in San Diego.

All Ngata can do now is continue to take the mental reps and bide his time, but when the call comes to strap it up and get back out there, Ngata plans to do so with a little extra pep in his step.