Allen Park — On his 40th birthday, after 17 seasons and 260 games — the second-most in franchise history — the Detroit Lions are parting ways with long snapper Don Muhlbach.
“We are going to let Don Muhlbach go, it will be official tomorrow,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said shortly after taking the podium for his daily training camp press conference on Tuesday. “Look, I got the utmost respect for Don. I played with Don. … He’s a pro, he’s an even better person, and he’s meant a lot to this organization.
“He’s always represented it well, and he’s an outstanding teammate. He was always locked in and a man of his word. So, I hate it man. This is the hardest time, especially with a player like him. But that’s coming down the wire, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t open up with that for him.”
Asked why the Lions were making this move now, Campbell summarized the decision in three words: “It’s just time.”
Muhlbach had been a model of consistency and durability during his time with the Lions. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M by the Baltimore Ravens in 2004, he was picked up by the Lions during training camp that year as an injury replacement for Jody Littleton.
Not only was his 260 games played second to Jason Hanson with the franchise, Muhlbach had moved into the top 50 in league history and had a shot of cracking the top 25 if he played and stayed healthy in 2021.
Campbell said Muhlbach took the news of his release as well as could be expected.
“Don was outstanding,” Campbell said. “Of course it was hard, but he was, as he’s done his whole career — anybody that knows him — he handled it like a pro. He appreciated that we talked to him, we brought him up there, we sat with him for a while because we wanted this to be the best way that we could, or at least make it as good as you could under the circumstances.
“Of course he was disappointed. It’s hard. I mean, it’s all he’s known. He’s been a Detroit Lion for a long time. It’s really part of him, so that’s not easy. That’s not easy to watch. I know it hurt. I know he wanted to talk to his wife and his family and kinda go from there.”
Campbell was not sure whether Muhlbach will look to continue his career elsewhere.
During his tenure in Detroit, Muhlbach was a three-time captain and a two-time Pro Bowler, earning the honor in 2012 and 2018.
“Don Muhlbach will go down as one of the all-time Detroit Lions greats,” owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement. “Since joining our team as a free agent in 2004, to earning the respect of his teammates as a team captain, he has represented our organization with class, consistency and true sportsmanship.
“His 260 career games played illustrate the dedication to his craft he has displayed over the course of his 17 seasons. Only 36 players in the history of the National Football League have played in more games than Don, and we are proud to call him a Lion for life.”
With Muhlbach exiting, it leaves Scott Daly as the lone long snapper on the Lions roster. Undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2017, he had a short, offseason stint with the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. From there, he joined the San Antonio Commanders of the Alliance of American Football and was most recently with the New York Guardians of the XFL.
Campbell noted that releasing Muhlbach doesn’t mean Daly has won the job.
“He knows that, as does everyone else on this roster,” Campbell said.
Muhlbach’s release came on a day where several teammates celebrated his 40th birthday, posting photos on social media, including multiple pictures of him sitting on a rocking chair.
At the end of last season, Muhlbach still wasn’t sure he wanted to keep playing, but he wasn’t turned off by being part of another rebuild with the Lions.
“I mean, I’ve done it before, so maybe I can help with it?” Muhlbach said at the time. “I don’t know. I do feel like I want to get this thing going in the right direction before they get rid of me, so I don’t know. All I know right now is my body feels pretty good.”
Unfortunately, the end came sooner than he expected.