When he made his Saints’ debut on Sunday, Justin Evans hadn’t played a game since Dec. 2. During those 1,378 days between NFL appearances, the safety surely had doubts about whether he would ever get another chance.
Saints coach Dennis Allen, who, like Evans, was a defensive back at Texas A&M, gave Evans a second chance after injuries derailed Evans’ first chance.
Evans won a roster spot and then won a starting job, opening as the nickel defender and playing 51 snaps.
“That’s God, bro. That’s the only answer,” Evans said, via Luke Johnson of The Times-Picayune. “That’s it. That’s all it is. Four years? You ever heard of somebody doing that? Four years. I’m blessed to be back, and I’m with a great organization. I’m loving it, man.”
It doesn’t happen often.
Steve DeBerg returned from four years of retirement to back up Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler in 1998; running back Marcus Dupree played the Rams in 1990 after not playing professionally in five years; Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was retired for three seasons before returning to the play for the Ravens for two seasons; and Michael Vick and Josh Gordon both served two-year NFL suspensions before returning to action.
Evans entered the league as a second-round choice of the Buccaneers in 2017 and appeared in 24 games with Tampa Bay. He made four interceptions and 93 tackles.
A foot injury prematurely ended his 2018 season, and Evans tore his Achilles before the 2019 season. The Bucs waived Evans on Dec. 22, 2020, after he failed to get on the field for three seasons.
He was completely out of the league in 2021.
That’s why Evans said he became emotional as he ran onto the field.
“I was just like, ‘Damn, it’s real; it’s not a dream,’” Evans said.
Evans made two tackles and a pass breakup.