ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Manny Ramirez still has his house in Canton, Michigan, even though he said he hasn’t been back since he left the Detroit Lions in 2010. He still has his church there. He has friends there.
When he received the call he would be traded from Denver to Detroit on Thursday night, this at least gave him some comfort on what had already been a difficult day.
“The transition won’t be as hard as it would be if it was a new city,” Ramirez said Friday. “That’s a huge plus. To be able to say that I have gotten my second chance with the team where it started, I am very grateful for that.”
He’s grateful, too, because it made part of what had already been a very difficult day a little bit easier. Earlier Thursday, Ramirez found out that his wife Iris’ grandfather, Armando Deleon, died in Texas following complications from surgery. Deleon had been on a ventilator, so the family decided to let him go in peace.
Ramirez never had a grandfather growing up, so he looked at Deleon as his own as well. He said he won’t be able to make it back to Texas for the funeral, either.
“I want to be there, but I think I’d only get in the way,” Ramirez said. “It hurts that he’s gone now. But it’s just a part of it, I guess. I think he’s in a better place. I’ve definitely been praying for him. He’ll always be my grandfather.”
It started a day where Ramirez and his family had their entire lives change again. Ramirez said he wasn’t expecting it at all and it “threw everything in a spin for us.”
The day also brought back a lot of memories for Ramirez, who was released by the Lions on Oct. 5, 2010. He didn’t play for Denver until 2011 -- and then made the playoffs every year with the Broncos. When the Lions cut Ramirez, it changed him as a person. It made him mature. It strengthened his relationship with his wife.
It made him realize he was immature.
“I thought I was the guy. I thought I was going to be a part of the new direction that the Lions were going to be a part of and it didn’t work out that way,” Ramirez said. “I think that kind of got me down a lot. I allowed certain things to bring me down and affect the way I played and the way I focused to affect me in the wrong way.
“Now, I don’t let certain things bother me. I know I can only control what I can control. It doesn’t matter what other people say and all that stuff. As long as I put my first foot first, it’s what’s going to happen.”
Going to Denver had other benefits. He played in a Super Bowl and learned a new position, center, and that should help him now. Part of what attracted the Lions to making the deal including Ramirez was his position flexibility to play either guard spot or center.
For a little while, it looked like Ramirez might be returning to the Lions as a for-sure starter since Detroit had a gaping hole at left guard. Then, with the pick acquired during the trade-down with the Broncos, the Lions drafted guard Laken Tomlinson.
At first, Ramirez didn’t know because he was dealing with the fallout from the trade and the death in his family. As he was on the phone with his now-former boss, John Elway, he looked at the television and saw who the Lions drafted.
He didn’t seem fazed by it Friday. He said it would be “fun” working with Tomlinson and he believes the Lions' coaching staff will give him a chance to compete and earn a starting spot. This despite the Lions spending three draft picks in the past three years on interior offensive linemen they believe to be the future of their line in guard Larry Warford, center Travis Swanson and on Thursday night, Tomlinson.
At best for Ramirez, he’ll be a starter. At worst, he’ll be the veteran backup who ends up being a much-needed mentor for all three players, none of whom have been in the league for more than three seasons. This will be the ninth year for Ramirez.
“I’m excited that we have a very young offensive line here that they’re going to be able to build around and it’s going to be very competitive,” Ramirez said. “I think I bring a lot to the table as far as being a good leader, the experience that I’ve been through.
“You know, teach them how to approach different situations and just be able to help the group as a whole.”