Larry Foote has heard the wisecracks.
He was a starting linebacker on two championship teams in Pittsburgh. But he asked to be traded a couple of weeks after the Super Bowl, and when the Steelers eventually released him, he signed almost immediately with the team that just suffered the NFL's first 0-16 season.
The thing is, that team was the Lions. Is he crazy?
"This is my hometown," said Foote, a Detroit native who also played at Michigan. "All along during my career, this idea was always in the back of my head: What would it be like to play for the Lions? This is a great opportunity, a fresh start in my career, new coaches. I'm just excited and just honored to be here."
This wasn't just about a homecoming. This was about opportunity. Foote felt his role was limited in Pittsburgh, with first-round pick Lawrence Timmons pushing for playing time, and he wants to prove his worth as a three-down linebacker so he can cash in next year.
"I'm going to be valued a little higher than I am right now," Foote said. "I'm looking forward to just having a one-year deal and showing the Lions organization what I can do."
The Lions have an opening at middle linebacker, and Foote is expected to start between Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson. But the Lions drafted DeAndre Levy with the idea of moving him from the outside to the inside, and they made no promises to Foote.
"The point we made with him is the same point we made with every player on the team," coach Jim Schwartz said. "When he does sign on that line, he's not signing as the starting middle linebacker. He's signing to compete for the starting job."
Foote wants to help his hometown off the field, too. He just bought a house here. He will continue to be active in the community -- no matter where he plays in 2010 and beyond.
"Detroit is on the up-and-up," Foote said. "We're starting fresh with the football team. We've got a new mayor. We can't do nothing but go up, to be honest. But people have got to be willing to roll up their sleeves and get to the root of it and turn things around, and I'm definitely one that's on the positive side of that. I'm excited. Just off the field, just doing stuff in the community and reaching these young kids and getting this place turned around."
The Lions have hosted free agent defensive end Kevin Carter. Not only did Carter play for Schwartz in Tennessee, he's from Mayhew's hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. "I've known him for a while," Mayhew said. "I think Kevin's a veteran who's been around it for a long time. I don't think he has a sense of urgency to do something right now. We've been in dialogue with him and his agent, and I don't think anything with him is imminent."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody gets their freak on a little different way." -- Lions coach Jim Schwartz, a rock fan, on his headphones-only policy in the locker room.