Allen Park — Kalif Raymond was done for the day. Out of uniform, in street clothes and ready to head home, the Detroit Lions receiver paused when he saw a few of his teammates out on the field putting in some extra work on the JUGS machine.
If there’s one thing to know about Raymond, it’s that he’s almost always the last player on the practice field. He’s the one putting in the extra work, making sure he’s not taking any opportunity for granted after going undrafted out of Holy Cross in 2016.
So he certainty wasn’t about to take a shortcut this day.
In jeans and a flannel shirt, on an afternoon he was supposed to be taking it easy, Raymond joined his teammates to catch some extra passes. So if you’re wondering why it was a priority for the Lions to retain the 5-foot-8 journeyman this offseason, his attitude and approach in these behind-the-scenes moments embodies it.
“I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. What?’ Of course, I’m supposed to be resting, but I’m like, no, if they’re catching passes, I’m about to go in there,” Raymond said. “I’m literally in casual clothes out there catching passes with them. When you have guys that play and work like that, when we get to the game imagine how much different my game was and their game was because we caught JUGS that day when everybody else was gone. The more people you have like that in a room, I can only imagine if there’s six, 10, 12 wideouts all doing the same thing after practice, that’s going to grow.”
Raymond is a grinder. He’s had to be to make it this far.
He bounced around six rosters his first four seasons before finding a little bit of stability with a three-year stint in Tennessee. But it was on a one-year deal with Detroit last season that he experienced a breakout. Playing far more snaps than he had previously, he found a way to haul in 48 passes for 576 yards and four scores, better production than the rest of his career combined. He also finished fourth in the NFL, averaging 11.2 yards a punt returner.
And he’s always looking for ways to get better, whether it’s catching 200 extra passes on the JUGS after practice every day, consuming film on the league’s other receivers throughout his offseason, or even picking the brains of those other wideouts when he gets the chance.
That preparation, combined with the experience gained from the extra playing time last season, has his confidence at an all-time high.
“I think it’s always something you can work on,” Raymond said. “I talked to a receiver at the end of the year and had a long conversation with him, just seeing what changed in him mentally, and he’s one of the best receivers in the league.
“I mean, (my confidence is) definitely something that’s continuing to grow because it’s something that I think is the biggest part of the game,” Raymond continued. “I had a coach tell me a while ago, he said there’s good hands, there’s great hands, and then there’s confident hands.”
The way things are shaping up, Raymond might have a difficult time replicating last season’s production. The team also re-signed midseason addition Josh Reynolds and added DJ Chark in free agency. Plus, there’s the upcoming draft, where the team could easily look to add another piece in the early rounds. When all is said and done, Raymond might end up the fifth or sixth option on the depth chart.
But that’s where he started last offseason too, so his plan is to be ready a full workload, in case his number gets called more frequently than anticipated once again.
“If I train for 50 (targets), but there’s only one, that’s going to be a heckuva of a one because I’m ready for 50. I think that’s the biggest thing is making sure you’re prepared for it all.”