Larry Foote: I'm glad I didn't sign a longer deal with Detroit. I want to be with a winner.
Larry Foote 2.0: That's not a shot at Detroit or the Lions.
Larry Foote, a Detroit native and Pershing grad, wanted to set the record straight Wednesday, a day after some of his comments to Pittsburgh reporters about leaving the Lions -- he signed a three-year contract with the Steelers on Monday -- made headlines.
Specifically, it was Foote saying, "I'm just glad I'm back and thank God I didn't sign a longer deal there (in Detroit)."
The point he was trying to make, he explained Wednesday, was how elated he was to get an opportunity to return to Pittsburgh, where he spent the first seven years of his NFL career before getting released last spring. Foote signed a one-year deal with the Lions last May, and talks in December about a contract extension here weren't productive.
"But if I'd have gone to any team (last year), I still would be saying, 'Thank God' I had an opportunity to come back to Pittsburgh,'" said Foote, who didn't realize until late last week -- after free-agent visits with the Redskins and Cardinals -- that returning to the Steelers was a legitimate option, for reasons both football and financial.
"When I was in Arizona last Friday, (the Steelers) stepped up their offer and I said, 'Holy, moly,'" Foote said. "My heart started beating fast. Because that's the place that drafted me and that's the place where I built relationships and friendships that go way beyond football. And I know how special a place it was. Anybody that's played in Pittsburgh understands that and, when I left, I missed it.
"I hope eventually this community can turn like that. But that's a special place, to wear that black and gold and have your fans travel the way they do. They say the Dallas Cowboys are America's Team. But that's not true. It's the Pittsburgh Steelers."
But, he added, "That's not a shot at Detroit or the Lions."
Foote, who signed a three-year, $9.3 million contract to be a backup in Pittsburgh, actually took part in a Lions event Wednesday, speaking to kids at an academy on Detroit's east side. And he was on the phone later in the day talking about his former team, praising linebackers coach Matt Burke, saying coach Jim Schwartz has things "moving in the right direction" and adding that he thinks general manager Martin Mayhew is "doing a great job."
Still, Foote, 29, admits he never got comfortable as the starting middle linebacker in the Lions' 4-3 defensive scheme last fall, especially after playing his first seven seasons in a 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh.
"They were evaluating me the whole time, and I was evaluating them," Foote said. "I guess it was a mutual decision. I didn't really fit into the defense, didn't feel like it suited my game. And I'm quite sure the coaches saw it that way, too."
The team's well-documented struggles also took a toll on Foote, who was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams in Pittsburgh.
"The losing part, there's no competitive person that's going to enjoy that," Foote said. "But as far as the experience and playing in Detroit, it was very positive. That's something I'm always gonna treasure. It was an honor to come home and play for Detroit and the fans. We have a whole bunch of true, loyal fans that've been going through this losing, and they were still there supporting us."
And Foote said he's ready to join them again now that he's done playing for the Lions.
"I've been here (in Detroit) every offseason when I was in Pittsburgh," said Foote, who still owns a home in Pittsburgh but laments now he sold all the furniture. "And Pittsburgh's definitely my home away from home. ... But when I'm done playing, I'm a Detroiter. There's no doubt about it."
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100317/SPO ... z0idF577il