A little more than six months after Saivion Smith was briefly paralyzed in the opening minutes of a football game between the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, the cornerback is re-signing with the Lions and resuming his professional football career.
A source familiar with the negotiations confirmed the agreement that was first reported by the NFL Network.
An undrafted free agent out of Alabama in 2019, Smith was part of five NFL rosters before joining the Lions late in 2021. He began last season on the team’s practice squad before he was promoted to the active roster and thrust into the starting lineup for the team’s Week 5 game against New England.
But on New England’s second offense snap, Smith collapsed after attempting to jam Patriots tight end Hunter Henry. It quickly became clear the injury was serious as trainers tended to him. Play was stopped for more than nine minutes as Smith was loaded into an ambulance alongside his father and taken to a local medical facility.
Smith later recounted he lost the ability to move or speak for approximately 20 seconds.
“I could see everything, I could hear everything, I saw my teammates on the sideline,” Smith said in October, three weeks after suffering the injury. “I saw everybody, but I just couldn’t move. I was trying to extend my arms, move my legs, I couldn’t do nothing for like 20 seconds.”
Smith regained motor functions in the ambulance and immediately began to contemplate whether he’d be able to play again. Medical testing revealed a bulging disc in his neck had caused him to collapse. He underwent fusion surgery in November.
The initial estimate for recovery was five months, which would align with his re-signing with the Lions.
“It’s just part of football,” he said. “That could have happened any play, anytime to anybody. That could have happened to the average Joe that works at McDonald’s, if he slipped and fell. So I feel like it’s part of the game, it’s part of life, so do nothing but get the surgery and rehab and get better.”
Smith will join a revamped cornerback room after Detroit signed Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency this offseason and traded former first-round pick Jeff Okudah to the Atlanta Falcons last week.
In his young career, the 25-year-old Smith has appeared in 10 games, making two starts. He also started a game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie in 2019, and appeared in one game for the San Francisco 49ers in 2021, playing exclusively on special teams.