“I got a call from Coach [John] Harbaugh. He said he just wanted to call me out of respect that they’re going to trade me,” Ngata said in a news conference Wednesday after he passed his physical and his trade from the Ravens to the Detroit Lions was complete. “This was about 20-to-30 minutes before it happened. I was very thankful that he was willing to do that.”
Moments before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. start to free agency, the Ravens sent Ngata and a 2015 seventh-round NFL draft pick to the Lions for 2015 fourth- and fifth-round picks. The Ravens initially had no interest in trading Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. However, talks with him about a contract extension gained little traction and the Ravens, who have several roster holes to fill, didn’t feel that they could keep him around under his current deal, which carried a $16 million cap hit.
“We just weren’t close enough to what we thought I could get,” Ngata said when asked by Detroit reporters why contract talks broke down. “We just figured we’d just hold still until they do something and they ended up trading me.”
With Detroit, Ngata reunites with two former Ravens assistants: Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
“I had the privilege of working with Haloti for three years in Baltimore and the one thing that I love about him, other than the fact that he’s a great football player, he’s a good man, he’s a good family man, he’s great to work with,” said Austin, the former Ravens’ secondary coach. “I know the benefits that he’ll bring to our team as a player and in our locker room. … We know what we expect from our defense and what we aspire to be and the goals that we want to accomplish. Haloti is going to help us get there. I’m just pleased we were able to bring him in the fold. It makes us better, it keeps us competitive.”
Ngata, 31, will be asked to fill the void created when defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a big free-agent deal with the Miami Dolphins.
“Ndamukong Suh was a great player -- well deserved contract that he got,” Ngata said. “I don’t see myself as Ndamukong Suh. I’m a different player. He’s made Pro Bowls, I’ve made Pro Bowls. I’ll play my game and hopefully I’ll help my team win.”
During the news conference, which lasted nearly 10 minutes, Ngata said little about his time in Baltimore, though that’s hardly surprising. He’s never enjoyed or been completely comfortable talking to reporters.
He did, however, discuss how much smarter he feels as a player, and attributed that to the time he spent around so many good defensive players.
“Learning from guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, how to be a pro, how to take care of your body, how to study film. There’s unlimited things you learn from those guys,” he said. “I think they kind of helped me mold the player that I am today and hopefully I can continue to do that to some of the guys we have in the locker room here.”
Ngata, who enters the final year of a five-year, $61 million contract signed with the Ravens in 2011, said he would be interested in signing an extension with the Lions. However, that’s not his focus.
“I just want to play,” he said. “I’ve been with Baltimore for nine years. I’ve been there my whole career. This is an exciting change. I’m just excited about the new journey.”