ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Dominic Raiola doesn't want to slip. He's been to the bottom. He is fine if he never has to return.
"The only fear you have is getting there, and then you're going to fall off quick," the Lions center says.
Raiola has spent his entire 12-year career in Detroit. Helping the Lions return to the playoffs last season is a step. He's hoping it's another forward step follows.
"You go into the offseason, saying, let's go to work, because we really haven't done anything yet. Everybody is that much hungrier."
Raiola said the most frustrating part of the offseason was watching the Pro Bowl. He says quarterback Matthew Stafford deserved to be on the NFC team. Literally the closest person to Stafford on the field, Raiola said his signal-caller's maturation process continues to surprise him.
"It's pretty amazing. I got to witness, last Friday, I saw him work out. It was like he did a combine workout. It was unbelievable."
Raiola said he was taken aback by, of all things, Stafford's mobility in that workout.
"I said (to him), 'You feel good?' He said, 'Yeah. I feel good.' Think about it, the first couple years, he was dinged up, but coming back this year, I've never seen him move like that."
If the Lions want to make the jump into the upper echelon of the NFL's best, Stafford will be key. Raiola called Calvin Johnson "the best player in the league," and said the defense is better than they were last year.
Raiola isn't getting any older. He's watched the Red Wings and Pistons parade through the city, hoisting trophies and the exciting city. He believes the time is now for the Lions to do the same.
"I wanna raise this city up, in the football sense. To see it done with the Lombardi trophy, I think that'd be pretty amazing going down Woodward."
He's already imagined what that parade would be like.
"Being ten below, I already think about stuff like what I would wear, who I would have on the float."
Raiola says the imagination part lasts only throughout the summer, but as training camp nears, it ends now.
"When you come here, it's work. It's nose to the ground. You dig yourself in a hole, and you try to dig your way out.
Hopefully you come out on top when it's the end of the season."
The top. It's much more satisfying than the bottom - especially when you've been there to experience it.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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