Former Lions Draft Pick Coming out of Retirement to Join Panthers

John Penisini

Getty John Penisini goes for a tackle in 2021 in Minnesota.

Typically, most players that choose to walk away from the NFL don’t decide upon a quick return, but it seems a former Detroit Lions player will be doing just that.

Defensive tackle John Penisini was selected in the sixth-round by the Lions in 2020, and after playing a pair of seasons with the team, elected to walk away in the summer of 2022. Penisini, however, is now on track to come back.

According to agent GSE Worldwide agent David Canter on Saturday, April 8, Penisini will be coming out of retirement to sign with the Carolina Panthers this coming week.

“Very excited for our GSE Football client John Penisini who will be signing with the Panthers this week!,” Canter tweeted.

The reversal of fortune is notable, as the Lions had recently released Penisini from the reserve/retired list this offseason. Now, it appears as if that act was for a good reason, since he may have been eying a return to the league.

Detroit has a need for help at defensive tackle, as many see the interior as one of the biggest remaining needs on the team the rest of this offseason. The Lions re-signed Isaiah Buggs and John Cominsky, who can play along the interior. They could be looking at making additions in the draft, as well.

Nevertheless, Penisini will be coming back in the league to strengthen a Carolina defensive front that finished 10th in the NFL in run defense during 2022 allowing just 130 yards per-game.

John Penisini Made Retirement Announcement in 2022

Initially, Penisini revealed the news of his retirement on Saturday, June 11, 2022. He posted on his Twitter and Instagram account a note which not only revealed the choice at the time, but explained it to fans.

“I have made the decision to retire from football. I’m definitely going to miss my teammates and the coaching staff but I’m glad I got to experience it. I’m happy and excited for whatever life has for me. For my family, friends, teammates, coaches and all the people who supported my dream along the way I appreciate and love you guys. Go Lions,” Penisini wrote in the post.

At the time, Penisini had looked as if he was going to be a potential piece at defensive tackle for the Lions. Penisini had played two season in Detroit, and his first season with the team was under Matt Patricia, who selected him in the draft along with Bob Quinn in 2020.

Within the announcement, it had seemed as if Penisini was finished. Now, it seems as if he had a major change of heart and will be making his return to the league.

John Penisini’s Career Stats & Highlights

Before joining the Lions, Penisini played for Utah from 2017-2019 where he was most known as a clogger up front for the Utes.

In his career in college, he had 80 total tackles, 5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He was a better run stuffer and didn’t offer much in terms of a pass rush, but was a player who was counted on to stuff the middle for the Lions and add depth at the tackle position.

When he came into the league, that’s just what he did. As a rookie, Penisini put up 35 tackles, 1 sack and started 12 games. That number dropped considerably under the team’s new regime, with Penisini collecting only 14 tackles in 2021 while playing in 16 games with no starts. Here’s a look at some of his college work:

Penisini did bring some of that same grit he showed in college to the pros putting up 49 tackles, one sack and one pass defended, and after making the choice to walk away very early in his young career, he has now decided on a comeback to the league.

Notably, the Lions are scheduled to play Penisini’s new team in Carolina during the 2023 season.

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