When Jeff Backus announced his retirement from the NFL last month after a 12-year career, he did so via a written statement released by the team.
There wasn’t a press conference like the one the Lions held for kicker Jason Hanson on Tuesday. There were no interviews or sendoffs. That’s the way Backus wanted it.
Backus made his first public appearance since announcing his retirement at a Town Hall Meeting for season ticket holders at Ford Field Tuesday night.
Backus was one of a number of Lions alums who signed autographs and took pictures with fans as part of the festivities that also included a Q&A session with Lions president Tom Lewand and head coach Jim Schwartz.
Backus has taken his fair share of criticism over the years being part of a decade's worth of losing in the early 2000s. But when his name was announced Tuesday, he received a standing ovation from the crowd of a few thousand.
"I just think as the years wore on ... I knew I was getting to a point in my career where I’m extremely fortunate to play the number of years that I did," Backus told the crowd when asked why he decided to retire.
"You start to take into account your age and the way your body feels and it was an easy decision for me. I have three little kids and I want to run around the yard and play with them and have fun with them and coach them up and move on to that phase of my life.
"I’ve been extremely fortunate to play in Detroit for 12 years and play for one team. The Ford family has been great to me. The fans have been loyal. At the end of the day it was just time to call it a career."
Backus was an iron man at left tackle for the Lions, starting 187 straight games from 2001 to 2012 before missing the Thanksgiving Day game last year with a hamstring injury.
"When Jeff is out there as a left tackle he’s out there by himself," Schwartz said. "He very rarely gets help. When we fill up Ford Field, if he makes a mistake, every single person in the stadium can see that. To live with that kind of scrutiny is very difficult for a player. There is a lot of anonymity for a lot of players (but not a left tackle).
"To have the professionalism that Jeff goes about his work and the confidence that he brings to it means a lot to the guys in the locker room and it means a lot to the coaches who put him out there to be one-on-one with those marquee rushers."
Backus also took a moment to reflect on what it meant to play his entire career with the Lions.
"I’m from Michigan," he said. "I was born in Michigan. I went to the University of Michigan. This is where my family is from. To play at Michigan and get drafted by the Lions and play my whole career here ... we didn’t win as many games as I would have liked, but its such a great organization and I’m going to be part of the Lions forever and I couldn’t have dreamt it any other way."
Lewand and Schwartz also touched on a number of other topics during the Q&A portion of the program, including:
Tom Lewand on the possibility of the throwback jerseys coming back next year:
"We haven’t worn the throwbacks since 2010 and I think it’s time for us to look at taking those out of the closet and bringing those out for a game, so we’ll see if we do that. No promises yet, but we’ll see what happens with the schedule and that kind of thing."
Schwartz when asked how the team would use new running back
"We do have a very specific role in mind for him. Last year when he played for the Dolphins he was a running back. He didn’t have very many catches. This is a guy that can potentially catch 60, 70, 80 balls, depending on how we use him. He’s a very good open-field runner. Even though he did a good job with what Miami was asking him to do last year, that wasn’t what he did best."
Schwartz on this year's draft class:
"We have our eyes on some guys. This is a different draft than we’ve seen for a long time. You can tick off a lot of names and say, ‘that guy is definitely going in the top three or top two or top five.’ There are more names in that group than any year I’ve been around."