Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 3/14/13
ALLEN PARK, Mich. --For the first time in over a decade, the Detroit Lions will have a new left tackle on offense. Jeff Backus, who had been a starter since 2001 when he was a first-round pick coming out of Michigan, announced his retirement Thursday afternoon. Backus, a very quiet and private man, did it his way, by releasing a statement through the club: Today, Ive come to the conclusion that its time for me to hang up my cleats and retire, Backus said. Its a bittersweet moment, but Im content knowing I gave everything I had, played as hard as I could and tried my best to live up to the standards I believe in. While fans at times mocked him, calling him Sack-us, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Georgia native was admired sincerely by nearly everyone else around the organization for his hard work, professionalism and dedication. Team president Tom Lewand said he will remember Backus for his superhuman pain tolerance. He was all about getting the job done, Lewand told reporters. Backus made 187 consecutive starts, beginning with the first game of his rookie year, before having to sit out the Thanksgiving Day game last season because of an injury. That was the only game he missed during his 12-year career. Backus suffered through his team's down years, including the 0-16 embarrassment in 2008, but he did enjoy one winning season in 2011 when the Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs. With the loss of Backus, Detroit must replace three starters on its offensive line. Right guard Stephen Peterman was released last month and right tackle Gosder Cherilus signed a free-agent contract with Indianapolis this week. The Lions drafted Riley Reiff in the first round last year. Reiff is the top candidate right now to take over at left tackle, a crucial position to protect the blind side for quarterback Matthew Stafford. However, Backus retirement increases the chances that the Lions will draft an offensive tackle, either Central Michigans Eric Fisher or Texas A&Ms Luke Joeckel, if either is still on the board when Detroits No. 5 pick overall comes up.
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