Detroit Lions’ Halapoulivaati Vaitai ‘pushing through some things’ that have hampered play

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Big V has a been a big bust in his first season with the Detroit Lions, but head coach Matt Patricia indicated Tuesday that there are underlying reasons for offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s inconsistent play.

“Big V’s out there battling every day and I think he’s pushing through some things that have restricted him a little bit,” Patricia said. “He’s a tough guy. He just goes out and really tries to do everything he can to help the team. At that point, I’ll probably leave it at that as far as that’s concerned.”

The Lions signed Vaitai to a five-year deal worth up to $50 million at the start of free agency, and planned to use him as their starting right tackle this fall.

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But Vaitai, who had never been a full-time starter before the season, suffered a foot injury in training camp that kept him out of the first two games and has played primarily right guard since his return.

Vaitai has allowed 4.5 sacks in seven starts this season, missing last week’s win over Washington and sitting out the second half of Sunday’s loss to Carolina.

Beyond his underwhelming play, the Lions’ decision to move Vaitai to guard has made his contract look even more suspect.

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Last season, the Lions declined to offer guard Graham Glasgow a long-term contract because they did not want to overspend on the interior of their offensive line with left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow both in line for big-money extensions.

Decker signed a four-year, $60 million deal this offseason, while Ragnow will be eligible for a new contract after the season.

Glasgow signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Denver Broncos in free agency, and likely would have signed for less than Vaitai had the Lions been open to a deal last summer.

Tyrell Crosby has started nine of 10 games this season for the Lions at right tackle. In the one game he did not, against the Indianapolis Colts, he replaced Vaitai in the fourth quarter.

“He’s tough,” Patricia said of Vaitai. “He’s fighting through all of it the best he can.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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