Lions' winning ways making some veterans feel young again

Posted Jul 24, 2012

Center Dominic Raiola is entering his 12th season in the NFL, all with the Lions. That's a career of 172 games and 156 starts. But don’t bother asking him about any specifics relating to the first 10 years, he insists they're kind of a blur.

Raiola, 34, has been through some of the worst times in this franchise’s history over the last decade. The Lions had a combined 39-121 record over his first 10 seasons in the league, including the 0-16 season of 2008.

“I think the first years of my career flew by because we were so bad,” Raiola said. “I don’t know how many good memories I have. When we lost, we lost bad.

“Personally I had some good games, but you don’t ever take that with you. You want to take what you did as a team. I think that’s what made those first years fly by.”

Raiola said Tuesday that last year’s 10-6 season – the first winning season of his career and his first trip to the postseason – has him rejuvenated and feeling young just days before he reports to his 12th training camp with the rest of the veterans on Thursday.

“Last year made the first 10 years of my career,” he said. “I might be crazy, but I want to play a long time here. I definitely want to be here in Detroit ending on a good note.

“I want to see (Matthew) Stafford and Calvin (Johnson) being All Pros, and who knows, maybe league MVPs or Super Bowl MVPs. I’m looking forward to that and what we can be. That’s what I have going for me throughout the end of my career.”

Raiola isn’t the only Lions player entering the home stretch of his career who appears to have been invigorated by the team’s recent success.

“Look at Jeff (Backus). I think he would have been satisfied retiring after his deal was up (last year), but after having that success, it makes it fun again,” Raiola said of starting left tackle Jeff Backus, who signed a two year contract this offseason after playing in his 11th NFL season in 2011. “Not that we weren’t having fun playing the game, but it’s human nature that you have more fun when you win.

“You could see it on Jeff’s face how much fun he had last year, too. I always look at that. If you talked to him, he was more pleasant to be around and he wanted to be at work.”

Winning has a funny way of making veteran players feel young again and it appears to be having that affect in the Lions’ locker room for players like Raiola and Backus. Raiola said he doesn’t know how many more NFL seasons he has left, but with football being fun again, he said he’s going to enjoy the rest of the ride.