By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Before the Baltimore Ravens traded defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions on the first day of the new league year, Ngata had expected 2015 would be his 10th season with Baltimore.READ MORE: Michigan Matters: Pistons’ Rob Murphy on Helping His Hometown
The Ravens had been trying to work out a contract extension with Ngata, actually asking the 31-year-old defensive tackle for a longer commitment than he wanted to make.
“My agent and I, we were thinking three years, but they wanted five, I think,” Ngata said Wednesday. “I don’t know what they wanted. They wanted more. But I just knew that me personally, I could really give good three years without falling back or losing anything.”
The other part of the deal that did not come together, of course, was the money.
“It was just we weren’t close enough to what we thought I could get,” Ngata said. “We just figured we’d just hold still until they do something, and they ended up trading me.”
For Ngata, a trade was actually preferable to free agency, especially since Baltimore sent him to the Lions, whose head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin both coached for the Ravens before they came to Detroit.
“That’s awesome,” Ngata said. “I didn’t want to have to worry about going out and trying to shop myself and look good for everybody. I kind of know Coach Caldwell and TA [Teryl Austin], and they know me. I’m just happy that we’ve done something and we didn’t wait until after the draft or camp. I’m excited to be here, just can’t wait.”
With a level of comfort in Detroit already because of the presence of two of his former coaches, Ngata said he would be open to signing an extension with the Lions.
“I’m towards the end of my career,” Ngata said. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play, but … as long as my body feels good, I’m just going to keep on playing and if the Lions want to do something, then I’d love to stay here.”READ MORE: Ribs RnB Music Festival Kicks Off This Weekend In Downtown Detroit
When conversations about a contract extension might occur, Ngata could not say.
The 31-year-old defensive tackle said he never considered retiring even though failure to come to terms with Baltimore would mean leaving the only NFL team he has ever known.
“I feel like I still can play, and then also with my suspension last year, I just felt like I had to – I didn’t want to end off with something like that and that be my legacy,” Ngata said. “I just wanted to continue to play, and my body feels great, and so I just wanted to continue to keep on playing.”
Because of how last season ended, with him missing four games after testing positive for Adderall, Ngata said there will be an element this season of proving himself.
“You want to show that you weren’t using that the whole time, and then you want to not finish off your career with a suspension, so it’s just I wanted to get out and continue to keep on playing,” Ngata said.
The Lions traded for Ngata to help compensate for the loss of Ndamukong Suh, who went to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. While Ngata understands he will be replacing Suh, he does not compare himself to Suh, who became the most highly paid defensive player in the game when he signed with Miami.
“I don’t see myself as Ndamukong Suh,” Ngata said. “I’m a different player. He’s made Pro Bowls. I’ve made Pro Bowls. I play my game, and hopefully it helps the team win.”
In the eight seasons prior to 2014, Ngata never missed more than two games in a season. For his career, he has 445 tackles, 25.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and five interceptions.
As expected, the Lions expressed excitement about the acquisition of Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl selection.MORE NEWS: Judge Says Michigan Gov. Whitmer Won't Have To Testify In Abortion Lawsuit
“I’ve heard so many good things about people associated with that program in Baltimore about the guy that Haloti Ngata is, and we’re thrilled to have him as part of our team,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. “When you lose a guy as talented as Ndamukong Suh, to have the ability to replace him with a guy like Haloti Ngata really alleviates a lot of the concern about the defensive tackle position, so we’re very, very thrilled to have him. (He is a) five-time Pro Browler, five-time All-Pro and he is going to be a great addition to our franchise.”