August 26, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Lions' reliable Dominic Raiola driven to excel

Josh Katzenstein on the Lions positions contests
Josh Katzenstein on the Lions positions contests: Detroit News sportswriter discusses the competition for running back, wide receiver and safety positions ahead of Thursday's preseason game

Allen Park — As a second-round pick, Lions center Dominic Raiola wasn’t in danger of being cut during his first training camp in 2001.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t worried.

“I couldn’t play,” he said. “I couldn’t pass block. I ran the option in college. (I was) terrified.”

Part of Raiola’s initial fear might have come from what he’d seen in movies.

“It’s like ‘Major League,’ ” he said with a chuckle. “You open your locker with a pink slip in there.”

Raiola’s proverbial pink slip didn’t come then, and it hasn’t come since as he’s started all but four games at center since 2002 — 188 total.

Even though Raiola hasn’t had much team success during his career, he’s been one of the most reliable players on the roster, and had his best season in 2013.

Lions All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson often receives praise for displaying the work ethic of someone fighting for a job, and Raiola said he’s taken the same approach during his 14 seasons.

“I play like someone’s standing over me, looking over me every rep I take,” he said. “I take it to heart when I (mess) up.”

One thing that eased Raiola’s mind during his rookie season was someone telling him he wasn’t going to play and would sit behind starter Eric Beverly.

Fourteen seasons later, Raiola has stepped forward and become a leader in the locker room and on the offensive line.

Playing time undecided

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he’s not sure if or how much quarterback Matthew Stafford will play in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the Bills.

“We haven’t made a declaration in terms of who’s playing,” he said.

“What we will do in this case, it’s not going to be across the board with any particular position or individual.”

The goal of Thursday’s game will be to give players a chance to compete for spots at the back end of the roster. Even if Stafford and the starters play, it likely won’t be for long.

“It will be depending upon who we want to see and need to see and who we don’t need to see at this particular time,” Caldwell said. “The great majority of the guys will probably get some playing time.”

Extra points

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal), defensive end Jason Jones (unspecified) and safety Don Carey (hamstring) missed practice Tuesday.

… Running back Reggie Bush returned to practice after missing Saturday and Monday. Caldwell said Bush was resting.

… The Raiders claimed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio off waivers from the Lions. Tavecchio grew up in Moraga, California.

Lions center Dominic Raiola (51) was a second-round draft pick in 2001. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News