For the seventh year in a row, center Dominic Raiola won the Eric Andolsek Top Offensive Lineman Award as voted on by his teammates.
Raiola has been a team captain since 2006 and the heart and sole of the offensive line.
He was drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft and has been a starter for the Lions since 2002. Over that span, he’s missed a grand total of four games due to injury.
“He’s the quarterback of the offensive line and the nucleus of it,” said offensive line coach George Yarno. “He makes all the calls and declarations. He allows us to do a lot more upfront than maybe some other lines that don’t have an experienced center.”
Raiola (6-1, 295) has been criticized for being undersized almost his entire career. But it has to say something that he’s survived five different coaching changes since 2001 and all of them kept him as their starting center.
He and quarterback Matthew Stafford have build a nice rapport over the last three seasons and Stafford has said many times how much of an asset Raiola’s experience has been to him.
“I think especially with a young quarterback it’s a great benefit,” Yarno said. “Quarterback has what we call right of first refusal, he can change what we’re doing at anytime if he sees something or wants us to block a certain way he can do that, but Dom will come up and make the first call and that probably helps Matt focus on the perimeter of the game. I think it’s very helpful for Matt. They have a really good working relationship, there is a lot of trust there, and that’s helpful for a young quarterback.”
It’s easy to trust the center if you’re Stafford. He was sacked only 36 times in 663 pass attempts. That’s only 5.2 percent of the time.
The top offensive lineman award is given in the memory of the Lions’ Eric Andolsek, who was an emerging young guard for the Lions when he was killed tragically in an off-season accident in 1992. Andolsek started every game from 1989-91 and was named to the USA Today’s All-Pro Team in 1991.
Tags: Dominic Raiola, George Yarno, Matthew Stafford
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