The Lions have continued their cost-cutting efforts this offseason by agreeing to a restructure with veteran center Dominic Raiola on the final year of his four-year, $20 million contract, according to a league source.
Financial details weren’t immediately known, but it’s likely the contract is not guaranteed.
Raiola, 34, was set to make $4 million in base salary and count a little more than $6 million toward the 2013 salary cap.
The team has already lopped $8.5 million off next years cap with the release last week of Titus Young, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Peterman.
Those moves put the Lions under the expected $121 million salary cap for 2013 and Raiola’s restructure gives them even more flexibility to improve the roster when free agency begins March 12.
Raiola was drafted by the Lions in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft and has only missed four games over a 12-year career. He’s started every game at center over the last four seasons.
General manager Martin Mayhew said after the season that the Lions allowed too much interior pressure, which contributed to some of Matthew Stafford’s struggles at quarterback. The main culprits were Peterman and Raiola.
Raiola will potentially have to compete with Bill Nagy, 25, who was claimed by the Lions in August. Nagy started four games at left guard for the Cowboys as a rookie in 2011 and was competing for time at center last year before an ankle injury and subsequent surgery ended his season and resulted in his eventual release.
The Lions will also continue to look at options in both free agency and April’s draft to improve upfront, but Raiola’s return does keep a veteran presence in the locker room and the meeting room.
Tags: Dominic Raiola
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 17 Comments »
One of the “anonymous” NFL general managers who doesn’t think much of the Lions was back on ProFootballWeekly.com talking about the organization once again today.
Raiola, if you remember, called out the anonymous source for being cowardess a few weeks ago when a report printed on ProFootballWeekly cited two unnamed general managers saying Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew were “overrated”, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh belonged on the “All-Hype” team.
That source also said the Lions aren’t as close to being a consistently good team as some have tried to make it seem.
“If they had any (guts), they would say who they were,” Raiola said in response to the first article. “That’s kind of like a coward statement to me.”
One of those general managers obviously took offense to Raiola’s reaction, because this quote showed up on the website’s “Audibles” section today.
“I saw (Lions C) Dominic Raiola called me out, asking who the aimless, anonymous GM is who criticized the great Lions. ‘Who is this person?’ It’s the guy who rejects you every time he watches your tape and thinks you are a complete fraud,” the anonymous GM told the website.
“It’s the guy who didn’t think you could play when you came out of college and still doesn’t think you can play now. … If he spent as much time working the other muscles in his body as he does his jaw, he might have had the chance to be an average backup. You can put that in print.”
Raiola has started 164 games for the Lions over his 12-year career.
Detroitlions.com obtained an email from ProFootballWeekly editor Hub Arkush offering up his apology for printing the comments from an unnamed source directed toward Raiola.
The email was in response to an email sent to Arkush from a reader.
Arkush’s email read:
“You know what? You’re right and I hope you will accept my apologies. As the Publisher and Editor here this was totally my responsibility and I failed Pro Football Weekly, my staff and our readers.
“The Audibles section has been a thorn in my side for some time as I personally have several issues with it, but it is also one of the most popular features we run and the majority of our readers love it so I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can absolutely guarantee you every word in it comes from over – the – top credible sources but the restriction on getting such gritty, truth – off – the – bone commentary and analysis is if our sources agreed to be quoted most could lose their jobs. Do we give our readers this great, insiders’ analysis and commentary with our guarantee of the quality of the sources, or do we give you none of it because it is anonymous? I suspect you love it when it’s done right and not about your team.
“This was not done right. The original commentary on the Lions was fair and reasonable, as was Raiola’s reaction. But when Raiola called our critic out and we allowed him/her to take a second, personal and yet still anonymous shot at Raiola, that was over the line. You have my promise, we will do better. I’ve blind copied Martin Mayhew, Bill Keenist and Matt Barnhart, the Lions Director of Media Operations so that they can see my apology and in the hopes they will share it with Raiola and let him know that I would like the chance to apologize to him personally as well. I believe we get it right here 99% of the time but when you’re wrong, you’re wrong and I really appreciate you calling it to my attention. You are free to share this e – mail with whoever you like. Thank you, and thanks for reading PFW and taking the time to comment.”
Tags: Dominic Raiola
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 22 Comments »
Sirius NFL radio attended practice this Tuesday as part of their 2012 Training Camp Tour. Jim Miller and Keith Bulluck sat down with several players including QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson to discuss their thoughts on the preseason so far.
Full audio from all of the interviews are available on the website:
Tags: Brandon Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Cliff Avril, Dominic Raiola, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Matthew Stafford, Nate Burleson, Stephen Tulloch
Posted in DetroitLions.com Blog | No Comments »
National Football Post draft analyst Wes Bunting and ESPN’s Todd McShay have both released their second NFL mock draft’s and each has the Lions selecting Georgia guard Cordy Glenn with the 23rd pick in April’s NFL Draft.
“The Lions need to improve both their tackle and guard spots on the offensive line and Glenn has the talent to play either spot,” Bunting wrote.
“He’s a gifted athlete for his size with natural movement skills and if he can ever put it all together he has the skill set to play at a high level in the NFL.
McShay on Glenn:
“There is no cornerback or linebacker available who is worth this pick, so it might be an opportunity for the Lions to trade back with at team looking to trade up and get a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M) or Brock Osweiler (Arizona State),” McShay wrote.
“If not, Glenn is a solid pick. He has the size and power to thrive at guard in the NFL and could develop into a solid right tackle at some point. He held up well against top pass-rushers at the Senior Bowl but is still a work in progress at that position.”
The Lions have three players (T Jeff Backus, C Dominic Raiola and G Stephen Peterman) who are 30 and older and general manager Martin Mayhew said after the season it’s an issue the team needs to address.
Bunting and McShay feel the same way, apparently.
Mock drafts can’t be taken too seriously before the combine, individual workouts and interviews have even been conducted, but they get fans talking, and that’s fun.
Tags: Dominic Raiola, Jeff Backus, Martin Mayhew, Stephen Peterman
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 9 Comments »
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t an All-Pro, but he can be proud of the fact that he’s an All-Joe.
Stafford was named to the USA TODAY All-Joe Team on Friday.
The All-Joe team was created in 1992 by longtime USA Today NFL writer Larry Weisman as a tribute to Joe Phillips, a 14-year defensive lineman who did yeoman’s work for the Chiefs that season. His effort in the trenches didn’t lead to much glory. USA Today has honored the unsung Joes of the NFL ever since. Only players who have never been named to the Pro Bowl during their careers are eligible.
That may mean this turns out to be Stafford’s one-and-only nomination.
“The last time the All-Joe team selected a player who passed for more than 5,000 yards and 40 TDs was never,” the paper wrote of Stafford. “Despite posting such numbers and leading Detroit into postseason for the first time this century, Stafford could not snap the Lions’ 40-year streak of failing to send a quarterback to the Pro Bowl. But he’ll fix that soon enough.”
Center Dominic Raiola, who played in his first playoffs this season after 11 years in the league, was also named to the team.
“Consider this a lifetime achievement award for a fiery team captain who endured so many losses in his first 10 seasons before enjoying his first postseason trip,” the paper wrote of Raiola.
Tags: Dominic Raiola, Matthew Stafford
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »
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
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »
Lions starting left tackle Jeff Backus had surgery to repair a torn bicep muscle Monday.
Backus injured his arm trying to reach back at a defender in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ 45-28 loss to the Saints in the playoffs Saturday.
“He’s going to miss a significant portion of time,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz confirmed Monday. “You always have guys that will have an ankle cleaned out or a shoulder cleaned out – stuff like that. Jeff was really the big one that came from this last game.”
Backus, 34, began training camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a torn pectoral muscle.
He overcame that injury and was able to maintain his consecutive-start streak, which has reached 176.
Backus didn’t start the season as well as the Lions would have hoped, maybe because of the late start, but he was consistent the second half of the season.
“I thought that he settled down and then I felt protected very well as the year went on and has consistently been one of our best run-blockers also,” Schwartz said.
“A little bit that gets lost with Jeff is that Jeff is a very good run-blocker; very good at getting up the linebackers and cutting guys off and things like that. So it’s not all just pass blocking.”
Backus will be a free agent this offseason and it’ll be interesting to see how the injury and his age affect his prospects. The Lions could re-sign him for a discount.
“People take Jeff for granted,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He has a tough job every week. He’s playing against the right defense end and they’re some of the highest paid guys on the field. He does a great job and I think people take that for granted.”
Rookie offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath also had surgery Monday. His was on an elbow, Schwartz confirmed.
“He had a procedure on his elbow – not that big a deal,” he said.
Linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba will see a specialist on his injured shoulder Jan. 25 and will have surgery shortly thereafter. Ekejiuba was placed on injured-reserve after Week 3.
Tags: Dominic Raiola, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Jeff Backus, Johnny Culbreath
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »
Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola have played 249 NFL games between them. Saturday was the first time either one of them had played in a playoff game.
After such a long wait to play a meaningful game in January, they were both hoping to experience a larger sample size than just one-and-done.
Being eliminated from the playoffs so quickly is a bitter pill to swallow for both of them.
“I am 34 years old,” Backus said. “It is a step, but I would rather mature during the process of making it through the playoffs instead of just making it one and done.
“I don’t think anybody expected tonight to be our last game of the season. We all had bigger goals I guess. I think everybody is extremely disappointed.”
That includes, Raiola, 33, who was drafted with Backus in 2001.
“It is hard to swallow right now,” he said. “We are in and now we are out.”
But Raiola doesn’t think this will be his last time in the playoffs.
“We will be back,” he said. “Hopefully we can do this at our place next year, but I don’t think anybody in this locker room is ready for this. It is just difficult right now.”
Not only were the Lions eliminated, but Backus said after the game that he tore the bicep in his right arm in the fourth quarter.
“Guy made an inside move and I went to go hook him with my arm and my bicep popped. It is pretty simple,” he said. “I knew right when it happened what happened. With the experience with my (pectoral), I knew what it felt like to tear a muscle and it was the exact same sensation.”
Backus missed half of training camp with a torn pectoral muscle.
It will be interesting to see if the Lions start to address the their age at left tackle and center in this year’s draft or through free agency.
Tags: Dominic Raiola, Jeff Backus
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 29 Comments »
Coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions can be proud of the fact that they’ve ended some rather nasty losing streaks over the last couple years.
There was the 19-game consecutive losing streak they ended in 2009.
There was the 26-game consecutive road losing streak they snapped in 2010.
Then there was the 19-game losing streak to division opponents that fell by the wayside last season.
But there’s still one streak that looms large over the franchise.
The Lions haven’t won in the state of Wisconsin since a 21-17 victory over the Packers in 1991.
“We’ve ended a lot of losing streaks and I think it’s important to us to knock this one out,” said Lions center Dominic Raiola.
The Lions have a chance to “knock it out” on Sunday when they close the regular season at Lambeau Field, needing a victory to secure the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs.
“Yeah we’ve snapped a lot of streaks over the last couple years and it will be a nice one to get off our resume, but you know, whether it’s the Green Bay Packers or whoever — it’s the next game on our schedule and that’s the most important thing,” coach Jim Schwartz said Thursday.
“It’s hard to hold Matt Stafford accountable for something that happened in 1992, 93, 94, 95, and so on. That doesn’t mean a whole lot, it’s more important what we’re doing this week, what we do in practice yesterday, today, tomorrow, and how we play on Sunday — not what happened 20 years ago. But it would be nice to get it off our resume so to speak.”
Tags: Dominic Raiola, Jim Schwartz, Week 17 - Lions at Packers
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 9 Comments »
Tom Kowalski, longtime Detroit Lions writer for Booth Newspapers and MLive.com, died this morning, according to his fiancee, Diane Wolan.
“The entire Lions organization, the Ford family, and me, personally, were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Kowalski this morning,” said Detroit Lions Team President Tom Lewand. “Tom was a true professional, the consummate beat writer, somebody who brought a lot of tremendous information to our fans — even in times of disagreement; we always had the utmost respect for his professionalism.
“He will be sorely missed and our deepest sympathies go out to Diane and to his entire family. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them.”
HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ
“I’ll just say this about Tom,” said Head Coach Jim Schwartz. “The one thing he always tried to do was get it right. He knew football and he always wanted to get it right and we had a lot of respect for that.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM
“It was tough hearing the news today about Tom because I felt like I lost a good friend and not just a writer,” said Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham. “When he asked me questions, it was important to him to be right. Obviously, he always did his homework and that’s what I respected most about him. To me, he was an old-school writer. He was honest and fair.
“The way I look at him, he is all Detroit. People in this area that I met, they are all alike and he epitomized that. Our conversations were solid, and there was mutual respect for each other. Beyond football, we would also talk about life.
“I am sad that he is gone. God bless his family and friends.”
CENTER DOMINIC RAIOLA
“On behalf of the team, we consider him part of the family; we saw him every day,” said center Dominic Raiola. “I dealt with Tom every day; I’d see him out here. (It will) take a lot of time to get over this.
“In the end, Tom always had the best interest of everybody in that locker room. He always wanted to know more about why things happened on the field and he always did a good job of that. He was a good person; he was fun to be around. (I) had a lot more personal relationship with him, so that was some tough news to hear.”
KICKER JASON HANSON
“I have too many (memories),” said kicker Jason Hanson. “It is one of those things, just like with everybody, takes you by surprise. It kind of knocks the wind out of you. You don’t know what to say or think yet. It is just amazing. Of all the reporters, I think he was the one that got it right most of the time and really had the insight.
“Beyond that, regardless of any of that, he will be missed by all of us. And everyone in this locker room, their condolences and their prayers and their thoughts go to his family and friends. I am just at a loss of words. I don’t know what to think. We all are like ‘Is it true?’ We are devastated.”
QUARTERBACK MATTHEW STAFFORD
“Tom was a great guy,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “He was a big football guy; you could tell he knew football, he loved it. He was always a good guy in our locker room and we were blessed to have him around.
“As coach pointed out on the field, he said ‘You know, he always tried to get it right, which is something you respect from a reporter.’ He will definitely be missed.”
Tags: Dominic Raiola, Gunther Cunningham, Jason Hanson, Matthew Stafford, Tom Lewand
Posted in DetroitLions.com Blog | 47 Comments »