When the Detroit Lions landed free agent Mike Daniels last year, the veteran defensive tackle seemed to be thrilled with his new team. He called Matt Patricia a genius, and seemed eager to repay the team that had just cut him, the Green Bay Packers.
Unfortunately, the year didn’t turn out as Daniels planned. He missed five games due to another foot injury, and finished the season on injured reserve with an arm injury. Still, Daniels came impressed with the Lions’ locker room, according to a recent interview with SiriusXM’s Brady Quinn and Bruce Murray.
“The locker room was awesome,” Daniels said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I definitely enjoyed my teammates there. That was one of the hardest group of guys I’ve ever played with. It’s unfortunate things went the way they went outside of a lot of guys’ control, but when you really see how hard those guys were working, it was very encouraging.”
He later continued:
“That defense—seeing how those guys work, how they practiced—they just work so hard. It’s just unfortunate that things didn’t go the way that we wanted them, but that locker room was definitely amazing. It was one of the better ones that I was a part of.”
This certainly goes against some of the narrative we’ve heard about Lions head coach Matt Patricia. Some former players have painted a picture of a fractured locker room and one led by fear from the top. Most, however, have given Patricia credit for improving in Year 2, making good on some mistakes he initially made when landing in Detroit.
However, Daniels seemed to have his own rub with what happened in Detroit. Several times throughout the interview, he mentioned his playing time, showing his frustrations with how 2019 played out.
“I didn’t control my playing time. That’s the best way I can put it,” Daniels said. “When I was out there, I did what I could do, I was productive. PFF put a statline out that I was still very productive in my pass rush win rate. That’s just a testament to the player I am. Regardless of my situation, I’m going to come out and give everything I have, play as hard as I can, and that showed this year. Obviously, I didn’t get hardly any opportunities to show what I can do, but at the same time, the chances I did get, I made the most of them.”
It’s unclear from the interview whether Daniels is simply lamenting the injury that forced him to play just 204 snaps in Detroit last season or if he believes the coaching staff didn’t use him enough when he was healthy. In games he played from beginning to end, Daniels averaged just 26.1 snaps. One week against Washington, he played in just nine snaps despite not showing up on the injury report all week. Comparatively speaking, in his last two seasons with the Packers, Daniels averaged 43.7 snaps per game.
Daniels is clearly very hungry for more playing time, but admitted if the opportunity to be a full-time player isn’t there, he’ll still give whatever team he lands with his all.
“Obviously, I would like to play in a scheme where they’re like ‘Mike, we’re going to put you in a position so you can make plays,’ but if that’s not the case, then so be it, because I’m a team player,” Daniels said. “I’m going to do whatever is asked of me, and I’m still going to kick butt, because that’s what I’ve always done.”
Back in January, Daniels said he would love to come back to Detroit, saying he “definitely, definitely want(s) to be back here.”
As for his health, Daniels said he currently feels “amazing.” Though the current quarantine could set players back in their offseason preparation, the former Lions defensive tackle has taken the initiative by building an entire gym in his basement and posting some of his workouts on social media.
When it comes to free agency, Daniels said he’s received a “decent amount of interest” and is just waiting for NFL facilities to open up so that he can make his rounds. That being said, he’s open to returning to Green Bay.