Last week, we noted that 2020 Detroit Lions sixth-round pick John Penisini was planning to come out of retirement just a year after declaring his NFL career over. The Lions released him from his rookie contract, signifying that they were going to let him hit the market.
On Saturday night, his agency announced that Penisini is signing with the Carolina Panthers.
Penisini played for two years in Detroit, acting as the team’s starting nose tackle in 2020—filling in for an injured John Atkins and Danny Shelton. He moved back to a rotational piece in 2021, under new coach Dan Campbell, playing in just 276 snaps. In the two years combined, Penisini tallied 49 tackles, 1.0 sacks, and a pass defended.
After the 2021 season, Penisini announced his retirement from the league. He did not give a specific reason for his retirement, but some have speculated it was injury related. During his rookie season, Penisini was dealing with massive calcium deposits in his shoulders that were impacting his ability to play.
“John Penisini had what looked like softballs in his shoulder that he had repaired after the season after the fact,” Campbell said after Penisini’s rookie season. “It just looked like a bunch of calcium deposits that had been in there. You wonder why when you watch the film last year why he’s not using his arm. It’s because he had issues. It’s a credit to him playing through it and all of those things.”
In Carolina, Penisini will reunite with defensive line coach Todd Wash, who coached him for the 2021 season, but left Detroit for the Panthers this offseason.