At 33 years old and entering his 12th NFL season, Raiola is closer to the end than the beginning. Still, he isn’t about to lie down and let someone else take his job without a fight.
“I’m pretty competitive,” Raiola told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not going to just lay down and say, 'Aw, we got a first round center, here you go, here’s your job.’
“I came in and had to battle for my job, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to just lay down and let someone take my job. You have to go out there and prove it. If it happens it happens, but I’m pretty confident in my ability to go out there and do my job.”
Raiola was responding to a question about next week’s draft and the possibility of the Lions selecting a center – maybe Wisconsin’s Peter Konz – in the first round.
“We are getting old, but I’m going to keep plugging away until this engine dies,” Raiola said. “We’re getting older and there’s always someone coming up who’s bigger, faster, stronger and better. One day someone is going to play center other than me here. When that day comes, it will come, but as for right now, I’m going to get ready for the season."
There’s no hiding the fact the Lions are aging upfront, but Raiola says there’s also a benefit to having an experienced group who’s played a lot of football together. This will be the third-straight season the same starting five linemen are together upfront for the Lions.
“I think playing next to the same guy helps out a lot,” Raiola said. “Offensive line is not only about being good at what you do and smart at what you do, but you have to trust the guy next to you and that’s one of the unique things about our position. Everyone has to be doing the right thing to make a play go.”
It’s possible the Lions select a tackle or guard or even a center in next week’s draft. Like Raiola said, guys can’t play forever, but expect there to be one heck of a battle in training camp if the Lions bring in another center to compete with Raiola.