By: Will Burchfield
DeAndre Levy, who missed 11 games last season due to a knee injury, said on Tuesday that Lions’ doctors cleared him in March shortly before he was released, despite three outside doctors telling Levy the knee was not healthy, according to ESPN.
Unsigned and still not recovered five months later, Levy is filing an injury grievance against the Lions.
“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,” Levy told ESPN. “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. 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.'”
According to Levy, the Lions released him about a day later.
The 30-year-old linebacker injured his knee in the 2016 season-opener in Indianapolis. He missed the next 10 games, declining to return to action amid conflicting medical reports.
A source told 97.1 The Ticket in October that some doctors had cleared Levy to play while others had not. He resolved to sit out until he received unanimous approval and was convinced he was 100-percent healthy.
Levy eventually returned for the Lions’ Week 11 game versus the Bears. In hindsight, he wishes he hadn’t — he was never fully recovered. But he was drawn back into action by the Lions’ playoff race and, he said, by team doctors telling him he was at no further risk of injury.
Levy would later require a second surgery to repair a torn meniscus, a procedure he originally had done after the injury in Week 1.
“In the moment, they tell me I can’t make it worse,” Levy said. “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 it. In the short-term, it’s kind of like, I don’t know, I was just trying to prove I could be out there and help the team win and hopefully that would be some saving grace for next year, like I was still trying to battle it out for everybody.
“But now I’m stuck sidelined, struggling to get up-and-down stairs.”
Levy played sparingly in the Lions’ final five games of the season and their first-round playoff loss in Seattle, but feels the undue stress on his knee may have taken a year off his career, if not more.
“This set me back another year and has been extremely difficult to deal with. Physically difficult and then being chewed up and spat on after 8 years of sacrificing so much for them,” said Levy. “Struggling through 20 plays for 4 games isn’t worth losing a year, maybe 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.”
The Lions’ third-round draft pick in 2009, Levy played eight seasons for the team. At this peak — six interceptions in 2013, 151 tackles in 2014 — he was one of the best linebackers in the NFL. But he began to break down in 2015, starting with a hip injury that limited him to just one game that season.
He said he was insulted by the way the Lions cut him loose in March.
“I’m battling every day, like I put in a lot of time, a lot of hours for nearly a decade and then you cut me and tell me I’m not hurt. And now I have to go through a legal process to prove that I was injured. It’s insulting, man. It kind of left a sour taste in my mouth,” Levy said.
Levy has yet to resume running since his most recent surgery in April. He intends to play again, but only if he believes he won’t injure himself further.
“I’d be foolish, at this point in my career, to put my health in the well-being of NFL doctors,” Levy said.
Five or six teams have reached out to Levy, according to ESPN, but he has told them he won’t be cleared until November or December. By that point of the season, it may be too late for Levy to get up to speed.