By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – As the sports world debated the gravity of Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel flipping the bird to opposing players during Monday night’s preseason game, Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola recalled his bird-flipping past with a mixture of nostalgia and contrition.
The longtime Lions center has a colorful history of interactions with fans, having received fines for flipping fans the bird in 2008 and for yelling obscenities at the crowd in 2010.
Talking by his locker Tuesday, Raiola first joked about the fine Manziel would receive.
“Enjoy the FedEx,” Raiola said with a laugh. “That’s my thought. Enjoy that FedEx package. It ain’t pretty.”
Before too long, however, Raiola got serious.
“You can’t do that,” Raiola said. “I’ve grown up a lot since that. You just can’t do that.
“You can’t do it,” Raiola continued. “I don’t even respond to the crowd anymore. Maybe that’s the old side of me. I really don’t. We have so much more going on than to respond to other players or the crowd.”
If a rookie teammate of his had done something similar, Raiola’s message would be simple.
“It’s not worth it,” Raiola said. “Concentrate on playing. Concentrate on getting better. There’s always something you can work on before worrying about the other team or worrying about the crowd.”
Raiola smiled at the irony of him, of all people, offering such advice..
“Listen to me talk,” he said, looking at one of the most veteran members of the media. “Are you listening to this? Seriously, though … I think of myself as an idiot back when I used to – was a hothead. I put so much more focus and energy into my game now.”
Raiola’s smile disappeared completely when he contemplated how new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell would respond if a Detroit player did something like what Manziel did Monday.
“Not good,” Raiola said. “He wouldn’t like that. That’s not the culture he’s breeding here. He’s already – you listen to the music now, he already is telling us – not encouraging us, telling us – we’re not going to listen to anything that’s swearing. It’s a very family-oriented locker room. We have some of the coaches’ kids run through here, we have these younger guys that work back here. He’s really changing the culture. He’s done it all around. It’s crazy, but shoot, it’s what kind of man he is.”
Caldwell had talked with media earlier in training camp about how the players would only be allowed to play clean music, and he told CBS Detroit that the rule extended to everywhere in the building – including the locker room. Raiola confirmed that and added the same restriction applies to the weight room.
As far as how players have responded to the change in music selection, Raiola said that, first of all, they do not have a choice. For him, however, the adjustment is a positive one.
“I think it’s a great environment,” Raiola said. “Honestly, I could play 10 more years in this environment.”