Halapoulivaati Vaitai is healthy and ready to resume role as Lions starting right guard
After a lost 2022 season due to a back injury, Halapoulivaati Vaitai is healthy and ready to go as he faces competition to be the Lions starting right guard.
The Detroit Lions have one of the NFL's best offensive lines. But last season, starting with a back injury for Halipoulivaati Vaitai that required season-ending surgery, right guard was a weak spot and at times a revolving door.
Vaitai was back on the field for Lions' OTAs this week. He is probably the nominal starter at right guard, though the Lions' free agency reunion with Graham Glasgow added notable competition.
Being out all last season allowed Vaitai to enjoy some extra family time, on his 205-ace ranch outside of Houston, while he got healthy. There would certainly be some appeal to that life, and after seven NFL seasons retirement would have been an option.
Well, it was theoretically an option.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai is healthy and ready to be the Lions starting right guard again
Via Justin Rogers of The Detroit News, Vaitai talked about his time away and how quickly his spirit to keep playing was rekindled.
"After surgery, I was like, ‘Let me just rest. Let me just enjoy this time,'" Vaitai said Thursday. "And then when I started training again, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not ready to retire yet. "
"I can’t leave all my guys," Vaitai said. "I can’t leave them. I love this team a lot. I’m going to help (coach) Dan (Campbell) win one."
Due for a hefty cap hit this year, Vaitai took a substantial pay cut to stay with the Lions this offseason. The reworked deal also made 2023 effectively the final year of his contract, with 2024 made into a void year.
Vaitai has been an above-average run blocker in 2021, and over 15 games he did not allow a sack. He has also been a key veteran mentor for Penei Sewell. The best man will win in a looming competition for the starting right guard spot with Glasgow, and the Lions' offensive line is lined up to be even better for it this season.