LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Raiola's steady play; Ogletree and alligators; Johnson vs. Carr and more on London

Posted Oct 24, 2013

Jim Schwartz says center Dominic Raiola is playing the best football he's played since he took over as head coach in 2009

Dominic Raiola knows the end is getting near.

After 13 NFL seasons, it's only natural for a player to begin to contemplate the end of their career.

Raiola said Thursday he's still planning on a couple more years, and the way he’s playing this season, who can blame him?

Negative press gravitates to the Lions center – sometimes brought on by himself – but there’s only been good things to say about his performance on the field this year.

"I think he’s playing the best football, maybe in the five years that I have been here," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "He’s been consistent from week-to-week. He’s won his matchups."

Raiola credits the 15 added pounds he put on this offseason and the fact he's kept on during the season as part of his improved play. He also credits a younger spirit.

"I’m having fun with these young guys," he said. "They make me feel younger. I’ve always had a young spirit, but just being around these young guys and taking it game-by-game … improved and reinvented myself.

"The strength and the weight is helping and I haven’t lost any of my foot quickness or anything. I know my time is coming down to the last few years here and I’d like to savor every moment I got."

It’s no surprise Raiola is playing better with a major upgrade at right tackle in Larry Warford playing next to him and another solid season being put in the books by veteran left guard Rob Sims.

"It’s a credit to the guys next to me," Raiola said of his play.

FREE RENT MINUS THE ALLIGATOR

Kevin Ogletree, signed by Detroit a couple weeks ago after being released by Tampa Bay, has been staying rent-free at safety Louis Delmas’ house.

The two know each other from their college days -- Delmas at Western Michigan and Ogletree at Virginia. The two schools played each other in 2006.

At the time, Delmas was a cornerback, and said Ogletree earned his respect as a player and a trash talker. They’ve been friends ever since, they have the same agent (Drew Rosenhaus) and work out in Miami in the offseason.

So, when Ogletree needed a place to stay, Delmas obliged him.

There was just one problem ... Mojo.

Mojo was Delmas’ six-foot pet alligator.

"I told him I couldn't stay there with the gator there, so he had to make some adjustments for the New York City kid," Ogletree said.

Delmas ended up taking Mojo to an Allen Park Critter Pet Shop for two reasons. Ogletree was one. The other is that Delmas said the gator was getting too big and too expensive to feed.

JOHNSON VS. CARR A BIG MATCHUP

Calvin Johnson faces the best corners in the NFL week after week. It’s nothing new to the All Pro receiver.

This week vs. Dallas, he’ll likely be matched up against Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, who’s been playing well of late.

Carr held Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson to three catches for 21 yards last week and Pierre Garcon had less than 70 receiving yards the week prior in a win over Washington.

"He’s a good corner," Johnson said of Carr. "He’s a physical guy. He’s got to return that same mindset going in to the game. It’s going to be a long game and challenge. Guys get ready to play when they come to Detroit. We have to be on our game."

LONDON UPDATE

The Lions will travel to London to face the Atlanta Falcons next season at Wembley Stadium. The NFL is expected to announce a date and time for the game in the next month.

The Lions are the road team and team president Tom Lewand said the organization wouldn’t have agreed to play in the UK if it had meant giving up a home game at Ford Field.

"It doesn’t give up a home game, which is important to us," he said. "I think our fans deserve every home game that we can have at Ford Field, but this gives us an opportunity to take some of our fans on the road and make some new fans and do so on an international stage. It’s an exciting opportunity."

Lewand said there has been talks about one of the games being an afternoon game in London, which means it would be a morning game around 9 a.m. on the East Coast of the United States, but those are just talks at this point.

He also confirmed the team would have its bye week following the matchup.