Allen Park — Unable to join his teammates as they prepared for the biggest game of the season, Lions center Dominic Raiola experienced a real-life nightmare last week.
The NFL suspended him for the regular season finale against the Green Bay Packers, a game with the NFC North title on the line, after he stomped on Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson's ankle in Week 16.
In 14 years with the Lions, Raiola has never won a division title, and he missed his best opportunity because of what the NFL considered a safety violation, his sixth since 2010.
"It's hard and I had to relive it all week," he said Monday in his first public address since the league announced the suspension last Monday. "I wake up in the middle of the night thinking there's a chance I can play, texting my agent. It was like a bad dream. It was a bad dream, except it was real."
Raiola, who said he worked out at a local Lifetime Fitness last week, watched the Lions lose to the Packers and admitted it was difficult to be a spectator after so many years as the guy in the middle of the offense. But, ultimately, he wanted to support his teammates.
Unfortunately for Raiola, he had to watch the broadcast discuss Ndamukong Suh stepping on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' injured left calf, a move that resulted in a one-game ban for the All-Pro defensive tackle Monday. FOX gave Raiola's stomp a similar treatment the previous week, so he had to relive the same experience for his teammate.
"It was ridiculous what FOX did right after," Raiola said. "It was crazy watching it. I couldn't even listen to those guys after they did it. There's no way at that point in the game he did something like that on purpose."
Either way, the Lions now must prepare to play their playoff game without Suh a week after having to replace Raiola with rookie Travis Swanson.
The Lions reinstated Raiola Monday, cutting backup offensive lineman Darren Keyton to make room for him on the 53-man roster. Even after a week of reflection, though, Raiola still contends that he didn't stomp on Ferguson intentionally, a case he made in his appeal that mediator Derrick Brooks denied last Tuesday.
"I was disappointed, but that's the way they saw it," Raiola said. "Apparently, they didn't hear what I had to say and that's the way it is and that's the way it went. It was a rough week — probably one of the more difficult weeks of my life. It was tough."