ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Normally jovial Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell opened Tuesday’s news conference with empathy to deliver breaking news: the team was releasing veteran long snapper Don Muhlbach on Wednesday.
The move signifies the end of an era in Motown, as Muhlbach ranks second in franchise history with 17 seasons played.
The two-time Pro Bowler also celebrates his 40th birthday on Tuesday, the same date that NFL teams were forced to cut their rosters from 90 to 85 players.
“Look, I’ve got the utmost respect for Don, I played with Don. He played 17 seasons, 260 games, 37th overall all-time games played in this league,” Campbell said. “Dude’s a pro. He’s an even better person. He meant a lot to this organization and always will. He’s always represented as well. He’s an outstanding teammate who is always locked in. 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.”
Only former kicker Jason Hanson (327) has appeared in more games for the Lions than Muhlbach — who was a three-time team captain (2018, 2019, 2020).
Immediately after Campbell’s announcement, the team tweeted out a graphic from its official account, honoring Muhlbach for his many years with the caption “Thank you, Don.”
260 career games
Thank you, Don pic.twitter.com/E2FGjdQ6sE
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) August 17, 2021
Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said that the organization is “proud to call him a Lion for life.”
“Don Muhlbach will go down as one of the all-time Detroit Lions greats. 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,” Ford Hamp said in the statement.
He signed with the Lions in 2004 and never looked back, also becoming the first player in franchise history to appear in all 160 games in a given decade (2010 to 2019) since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978. Throughout his career, he snapped for 15 game-winning field goals in addition to five game-winning extra points despite entering the league as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004 before signing with Detroit.
However, the Lions are headed in a new direction with a new regime in place.
“I really think that just the best way to put it is it was time. It’s time,” Campbell said of Muhlbach. “Look, I told those guys out there, as weird as this may sound, this doesn’t mean that he was beaten out. (Scott) Daly’s here and he’s still gotta compete for a job and he knows that, as does everybody else on this roster, but it just was time. Shoot, man, I wish him the best — he and his family — and he’s a stud. I hate that we had to be the ones to do this.”