Detroit – There were times when Lions center Dominic Raiola wanted to explode over agonizing losses and frustrating seasons.
One time he stormed across the dressing room and shook a wicked finger. I knew he was angry. I knew he wanted to go off on his team.
"Never mind," he said.
Then he marched into the showers to cool off.
Raiola did not always maintain his cool, but he knew better than to rock the boat too hard.
Raiola is in a better place following the Lions 16-14 victory over the Vikings Sunday at Ford Field. He also finds himself in a place he's never been as a Lions player. He is one win from playing in his first 11-win season.
He is one or two wins, depending on what Green Bay does, from winning his first division title. These are uncharted waters for the 14-year NFL veteran.
That is why Raiola uses the term, "No apologies." He's used it before, during the rare good times with the Lions, and it's what Jim Caldwell preached to his team after another ugly win Sunday. The Lions are fortunate to be 10-4, but there is no need to apologize. Even though they've been terrible in the past, misfortune seemed to follow the Lions like a dark cloud.
"It's something that made me who I am today," Raiola said of the losing seasons. "It's something I went through (but) it's in the past. If you can't stop living in the past you can't move forward it. I'm moving forward."
Raiola has deep scars and that has been manifest in immature and irresponsible behavior toward opponents and even Lions fans.
Going into this season the Lions were 60-149, including one playoff loss, during Raiola's tenure. He played in 63 games in which the Lions lost by double digits -- 35 by 20 or more points.
He's had 10 double-digit loss seasons out of the previous 13, and played through losing streaks of 19, 12, 10, eight (twice), seven and six (twice) games.
Raiola also played on the only 0-16 team in NFL history and is now playing for his sixth coach, including one interim coach.
"What we have been through, all the hardships have been tough," he said. "You definitely have a greater appreciation for it, but at the same time winning takes care of it all."
Long snapper Don Muhlbach has only been around since 2004 but he also carries scars. He is one of the good guys of the NFL and deserves this run.
"You never forget the bad times," he said. "I mean, we had some lean years, but that makes this a little nicer. You know what happened back then and you tend to not to want to repeat that."
Muhlbach has bought into Caldwell's philosophy of one game and one practice at a time. I tried to tell him all the possibilities in front of him but Muhlbach interrupted.
"Whoa, whoa," he said. "You are way ahead of yourself."
I simply wanted to tell him that a win over the Bears would put the Lions in the playoffs and possibly set up a winner-take-all game at Green Bay for the NFC North division title. How would he handle this week?
"Just like we have all year," he said. "Don't even look at the record, look at the Bears. That is all we are doing right now. Taking care of the little things and the big things kind of line up."
The focus is on the Bears and Chicago, a team and a city that would love nothing better than to disrupt Detroit's postseason hopes.
Raiola has been part of teams that looked ahead but fell apart in close games. Do you remember how 6-2 turned into 7-9 in 2007?
There have been many frustrating moments for Raiola, such as the time he flipped off Lions fans and cursed at them. Now he just wants to finish the job.
"You just believe it was not always going to be like this," he said. "My mind said there is going to be a day where we are not going to be like this. We now have enough good people. We have enough good people in this building that says it is not going to be like that anymore."