By: Will Burchfield
DeAndre Levy caused a mighty stir on Tuesday when he told ESPN that Lions’ doctors cleared him in March, despite three outside doctors saying he was not fully recovered from the knee injury he had suffered in the 2016 season-opener.
According to Levy, the Lions released him about a day after they cleared him.
The 30-year-old linebacker, who is unsigned and still not back to full health, has since filed an injury grievance against the team.
Jim Caldwell was asked about Levy’s accusations on Wednesday morning after his team’s practice. The coach did his best to steer clear of the topic, preferring to field questions about Detroit’s upcoming engagement with the Colts.
“First of all, I didn’t read (the report) so I don’t know what was said. Secondly, when a grievance is filed in this league it’s a player’s prerogative. That’s why they have the CBA, that’s why they have an opportunity to litigate things of that nature. And they happen all the time,” Caldwell said. “But I’d rather talk about people that are here than aren’t here. Let’s talk about Indy and our guys that are playing.”
Levy, whose Week 1 injury later required surgery to repair a torn meniscus, said he was extremely incapacitated when team doctors cleared him.
“I figured there was something wrong because they passed me on a physical when I couldn’t even sit down to a chair or get into a linebacker stance at the time. In my mind, I didn’t think about the legal contract part of it. I thought, this is f—– up, like I can’t get into position, how can I pass a physical,” he said. “I didn’t know it was a physical the first time.
“I went in for just a follow-up for my knee, we go through the exam or whatever and I see he puts pass on it for the physical. I’m like, ‘OK, this ain’t right.’”
After his injury, Levy was sidelined for about three months. The Lions were extremely evasive about his status during this span, and Levy was never made available to the media.
A source told 97.1 The Ticket in October that some doctors had cleared Levy to play while others had not. Until he received unanimous approval and was convinced he was 100-percent healthy, he would continue to sit out.
Levy ultimately returned in Week 11, partly, he said, because team doctors and coaches told him he couldn’t damage his knee further.
“In the moment, they tell me I can’t make it worse. The doctors are telling me that, the coaches are telling me that, like the doctor is saying I can’t make it worse and now, I can. For my long-term health, yeah, I regret (returning),” said Levy.
He would later require a re-do of the knee operation he originally had done in the fall. He told ESPN that he’s still struggling to walk up and down stairs and that he won’t be cleared to play until November or December.
Caldwell was asked if Levy was truly healthy when the Lions released him in March.
“We followed everything by the rules. We did exactly what we were supposed to do,” Caldwell said. “That’s probably all I have to say on that. I don’t know the details, all the discussions and those kinds of things.”
Levy said the extra knee damage he suffered last season by returning to action may have taken a year off his career, if not more.
“I feel like it could have been avoided if I was shut down earlier,” he added. “The cartilage is wearing because my knee was jacked up. The cartilage is pretty much gone now because I’m out there and you’re telling me I’m not going to make it worse, it’s just a psychological injury and now I’m here, maybe missing another season because of it,” he said.