Allen Park — Practice ended 30 minutes earlier and almost every Lions player had long gone into the locker room, but two remained on the field.
Kalif Raymond, a staple for staying late and one of the franchise’s barometers for work ethic, was hardly a surprise. The other, undrafted rookie Dylan Drummond, is quickly establishing a similar reputation.
Raymond is a walking billboard for the concept of hard work paying off. An undrafted rookie out of Holy Cross in 2016, he’s scratched and clawed his way from journeyman status to reliable veteran. This month, the 29-year-old receiver signed his third contract with the Lions, a two-year extension that will keep him in Detroit through the 2025 season. And after averaging 48 catches the past two seasons, and earning second-team All-Pro honors as a punt returner last year, it came with a nice pay bump, too.
Drummond is trying to follow a similar, if not more dramatic, path. Not only did the rookie go undrafted out of Eastern Michigan this offseason, he initially went unsigned as a free agent. It took an impressive tryout during Detroit’s rookie minicamp to earn a job, but his success since, through the team’s offseason program and training camp, has been well-documented.
Of course, there’s still work to be done for Drummond. He’s played his way into having a chance, but he’ll need another solid week, and could certainly use better production in the preseason finale than he had the first two games, in his quest to earn a roster spot.
“It’s definitely stressful, but as much as I can I have to remind myself it’s the same things I’ve been doing all camp,” Drummond said about the week ahead. “It’s another week of practice, another opportunity to just prove myself more. Just be out there and be in the right spot.”
Drummond’s ability to learn the playbook and be reliable with his assignments has been an unquestioned strength, but that’s not to say he hasn’t also been a steady contributor on the practice field. In the team’s padded scrimmage on Tuesday, he continued to be one of the top targets on the second-team offense. He made a diving catch across the middle and a deep grab on third down, besting the coverage of veteran defensive back Will Harris, which led to field goal.
That’s a good way to erase the sting of two catchable passes he let hit the ground in last Saturday’s preseason game against Jacksonville.
“Those moments definitely are tough, but like I talked about earlier, it’s just an opportunity to learn,” Drummond said. “Having so few opportunities, it stings a little more, for sure, but I just think it’s an opportunity to show I can make (the play) the next time it comes my way. I hope I get that opportunity from the coaches again. I think when I do, if I do, I’ll come out on the right side of it.”
Drummond carries himself with a poise not common in a first-year player. He’s confident but not arrogant. When he arrived in Detroit, he doesn’t think a single teammate knew who he was, but he also never felt like he didn’t belong in the NFL. He’s proven that day after day in practice, surprising everyone but himself.
There’s a level of urgency this week with jobs on the line. Drummond is battling with fellow rookies Chase Cota and Antoine Green, as well as returning veterans Maurice Alexander and Trinity Benson for one, maybe two roster spots. But Drummond understands he can’t let the moment become bigger than it is.
“Coaches talk about it all the time, when the moment is big or something like that, you don’t want to be the guy trying to (do too much to) make the play,” he said. “You just want to do your job and things will fall into place that way.”