Lions Starter Says He Considered Retirement After Season-Ending Injury

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Getty Halapoulivaati Vaitai prepares for a snap in a Detroit Lions game.

After he suffered a back injury last preseason that required season-ending surgery, Detroit Lions veteran Halapoulivaati Vaitai had a chance to see what retirement would feel like.

The 30-year-old opened up to reporters at the team’s OTAs last week, explaining how he responded to the injury he suffered in the 2022 preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Vaitai said he could have gotten down on himself, but chose to see the long break from football as an opportunity.

“Instead of just having my head down, I took that time to spend time with my kids, my family,” Vaitai said, via SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit. “Just to see what retirement would feel like.”

Vaitai ultimately decided that he had more football left in him, and now heads into the season as an important piece of an offensive line considered one of the league’s best.

Lions Veteran Explains Decision to Return to the Team

Vaitai said he made the most of last season, getting to spend time at home with his wife and son, but ultimately decided he wasn’t quite ready for retirement.

“The only thing I know is football,” Vaitai said. “But it was great. I got to reflect on my life and my career in the league. So it was really good.”

Vaitai was willing to renegotiate his contract, with Pro Football Talk reporting on March 23 that he agreed to reduce his base salary from $9.4 million to $3 million. The Lions also made the final year of Vaitai’s contract voidable, the report noted. That gave the Lions some salary cap relief while offering Vaitai the chance to prove he was fully back from injury and seek a new contract after the season.

But Vaitai didn’t seem eager to move on from Detroit, telling reporters this week that he was excited to be playing alongside his friends and wants to help lead the franchise to its first-ever Super Bowl.

“I can’t leave Penei (Sewell). I can’t leave all my guys. I can’t leave them,” Vaitai said. “I love this team a lot. I’m going to help Dan (Campbell) win one.”

Lions Bolster Already Strong Line

Vaitai’s expected return will not be the only important addition to Detroit’s offensive line going into the season. The team added depth by signing former first-round pick Germain Ifedi on May 23, the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The Lions also drafted William & Mary tackle Colby Sorsdal in the fifth round of last month’s NFL Draft. Sorsdal, a tackle in college who is expected to play guard for the Lions, said he has been working to adjust to the size and speed of the NFL.

“Everybody says it, and it’s kind of a cliche answer. But, everybody is stronger, everybody is faster. And, you know, everybody is really good,” Sorsdal said, via “So, just kind of adjusting to the speed of the game, and seeing things the right way. And seeing things, you know, technique-wise and all that. Just getting in with it, and working on it.”

Vaitai said he is ready to serve as a mentor to the rookie lineman, doing what he can to shape Sorsdal into a starting-caliber player.

“I’m trying to give (Sorsdal) all the things I’ve known and the knowledge I’ve known over the years, so that way I can help him,” Vaitai said. “So when his time is ready, he should be prepared.”

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