It’s been 18 years since the Lions rushing attack was a definite plus. Since Barry Sanders retired from professional football on July 27, 1998, the Lions have been in search of the next guy to take over for the seismic hole Sanders left in the Lions’ backfield.
It’s funny, then, that the person they were looking to replace the greatest running back of all-time ended up being that very same person: Barry Sanders.
You’re reading this right, Lions fans: The next time your Detroit Lions go marching down the field, the one and only Barry Sanders will be taking handoffs from the first quarterback worthy of relying on him.
“I’m happy to be back after taking almost two decades off,” Sanders said in a press conference on Saturday morning. “It’s almost like things haven’t changed except for nearly everything about it.”
Much has been made about Sanders retirement from football, and his rather unceremonious exit while at his perceived peak. To this notion, Sanders reiterated: “It wasn't Bobby’s [Ross] fault.”
As for what number he’ll be wearing, that much is still in the air: “I literally just announced I’m coming back to the NFL at 48 and you want to talk about jersey numbers?”
Sanders jersey number was retired in 2004, but due to some tangled language in the contract he signed back then to receive that honor, Sanders cannot wear the No. 20 until that issue is resolved.
Matt Millen and Tom Lewand each have one respective piece of a key that could unlock the contract that was stowed away in a filing cabinet in Allen Park, but until they can convene at this location at the same time, the drawer will remain locked. Lewand was not available to comment while Millen’s secretary said he was tied up watching a marathon of his favorite television show.
“I said I wasn’t qualified to run an NFL team, but I never would have done something like this,” said Lions team president Rod Wood.
Regardless, Lions fans seem happy about the return of the legendary tailback.
“To be honest, I can’t believe it’s finally happening. If only that wuss Calvin Johnson wouldn't have up and left town the team would have a balanced offense,” said one long-time listener and first-time caller of 97.1 FM The Ticket—Detroit’s flagship station for how the team can replace the franchise’s best quarterback before he turns 30.
Sanders said the right time to come back just wasn't until now.
“I saw those big blue donuts they've been pedaling at Ford Field and thought, hey, I could use a few more of those in my bank account.” The media laughed as someone who was supposed to be Bon Quinn but didn't really look like Bob Quinn nervously shifted his eyes around the media room.
Sanders will be 49 in July and is probably receiving AARP newsletters in his mailbox. Nobody will replace the greatest running back of all-time, and if you think that's the case, well, April Fools on you.