- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- As odd as it might sound, as weird as it might seem, when quarterback Dan Orlovsky knew he would be headed to free agency this offseason, he had one place he wanted to go.
Never mind it was a place that, for many in his position, would elicit thoughts of frustration and pain, of mistakes made and games lost. No, the 30-year-old Orlovsky understood those questions would come when he told his friends and family he wanted to return to the team that initially drafted him, the Detroit Lions.
So when Orlovsky, one of the quarterbacks on the 2008 Lions team that went 0-16, returned to Detroit last week, those closest to him had the same question fans and others had: "What?"
"Not everyone's, but 99 percent of people's reactions were the same," Orlovsky said Monday. "But after expressing to them kind of my views on it and I'm at the point in my career where it's important for me to really enjoy going to work every day, really enjoy the people I'm working for and also go to a place where I think I'm not, I'm tired of kind of being on bad teams so trying to be a part of a good team and I think this place has a chance to be a good team."
Orlovsky has spent the majority of his career on teams that have missed the playoffs and in some cases been historically bad. Besides the 2008 Lions, he was also on the 2011 Indianapolis team that went 2-14, Jim Caldwell's final season with the Colts.
It was in Indianapolis, though, where this reunion of old player and coach started to take shape. Working with Caldwell again was an attractive option for Orlovsky, who had his triplets born right at the end of the 2011 season.
What stuck with him the most is what Caldwell did after that season. Three weeks after the year was over, the coach called the quarterback. The quarterback figured it was about football. It wasn't. Caldwell was instead checking in to see how his wife and kids were doing.
"Not knocking in any way people I have played for, but he is one of the best if not the best man I've ever worked for and played for," Orlovsky said. "What he stands for, who he is and how he treats people and how every day at work is going to be.
"I'm a believer in working hard and going about your business and doing it the right way and Jim is a lot like that. I'm just looking forward to enjoying the process with him. I had a lot of conversations with him and kind of expressing to him the kind of things I'm looking for."
First was someone who would be honest with him, and Orlovsky's familiarity with Caldwell assured him of that. The second was understanding what his role would be. Orlovsky said Monday he understands he is coming to Detroit to back up and help Matthew Stafford, not to try and win his job.
Instead, he is hoping to impart some of what he has learned as a veteran with four teams throughout his nine-year career. He's played in 24 games, completed 276 of 472 passes, threw 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Much of that came during his season in Detroit -- which comes back to why he wants to come back and the trepidation he understands some have about his return to the Lions. He knows people are going to link him to the 2008 team and, specifically, to Jared Allen chasing him out of the end zone for a safety during that season.
And he wants a chance to rectify some of that. In his first day back at the Lions facilities, he said the culture around the place "it's vastly different." A lot of that, he said, has to do with Caldwell and what has changed within the organization since the 2008 season.
It is why even if others had worries about Orlovsky heading back to Detroit, he was not concerned at all.
"I guess, in the fact that there's not much I can say to unmask the things that happened or erase those things. I've always, in my personal aspect of it, I knew I played well. We were just not a good football team," Orlovsky said. "Did I have a part of that? Sure. I wish I played better in certain spaces. But I knew I played well and I kind of look at it like this. It's hard to play in this league for four years. It's really hard to play in it for 10 years.
"My personal look, my goal is just to come in and do my job and help my team. But I get the fears maybe with obviously fans and whatnot. But the organization knows what they're doing and I know I'm a good player and I certainly hope to be a part of changing some of that past, whether that's directly or indirectly."