By Will Burchfield
DeAndre Levy barely played this season and wasn’t much of a factor when he did.
But Lions general manager Bob Quinn believes Levy can re-discover his dominant form from 2014 when the linebacker finished second in the NFL in tackles.
“I think he can be the same player he was a couple years ago,” Quinn said on Thursday. “It looks like to me he was getting healthier and healthier as the weeks went on when he came back. That’s what we envision.”
Levy was injured in the Lions’ season opener and missed the next 11 games due to knee and quad injuries. He returned in Week 14 versus the Bears and recorded 17 tackles over the team’s final four games. He added three tackles in the Lions’ first-round playoff loss to the Seahawks.
Amid his many physical setbacks in the past two seasons, including hip surgery in 2015, Levy has begun to question the NFL’s play-through-pain culture. More specifically, he has rebuked the league for valuing its product over its players.
“It’s frustrating,” he told Men’s Journal in November, “because you put your body on the line, and the people that you’re working to make money for, they prioritize profit over the health of their greatest assets, and as a player that’s troubling.”
Comments such as these, along with Levy’s mysteriously long absence this season, have called into question his desire to keep playing football.
But Quinn fully believes Levy is committed to his career.
“Yeah, every indication is he does (want to continue playing). I think when he came back from the injury at the end of the season he looked like he was healthy and ready to go,” Quinn said.
Twice in the past year – first in the Free Press, then in Men’s Journal – Levy has expressed concerns about developing the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). His symptoms have ranged from short-term memory loss to stuttering while reading aloud.
The Lions’ willingness to play Levy anyway – indeed, to put him in harm’s way – has rubbed some people the wrong way. But Quinn had no qualms activating Levy, and, looking back on it, has no misgivings about the way things transpired.
“There were no concerns on our end. Once he got cleared medically, we put him right back on the field,” said Quinn.
If the Lions were quick to defer to the doctors, perhaps it was because Levy never discussed his personal health concerns with anyone else in the organization.
“He’s never talked to me about that,” Quinn said. “You know DeAndre. He’s a pretty quiet guy. He goes out there, he comes to work every day, works hard. He really put in a lot of time and energy into his rehab and I commend him on how fast he came back from a decent injury.”