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Prideful Raiola keeps perspective after pay cut

The SportsXchange

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- If you expected veteran center Dominic Raiola to be bitter or pouty because he had to take a pay cut, you haven't been paying attention these last 13 years. When approached about it Wednesday, he brought up a text message he got from quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"He said, 'You always told me it wasn't about the money,' and that kind of hit me," Raiola said. "I always said, 'you want to play this game, you want to be good you have to have a passion for it.' If you start playing for money, then the years will become shorter and shorter.

"That's where I am now. You can say I am full of (crap), but that's the way it is. It really isn't about money. I want to be here, wholeheartedly, I still want to play this game. I love this game."

Coming into the offseason, he was on the books for $6.1 million. His base salary, based on the final year of the deal he signed in 2009, was $4.1 million and he was due a carry-over bonus of $2 million. He has played 172 of a possible 176 games -- Raiola missed four games in 2008 with a hand injury -- since becoming a starter in 2002.

General manager Martin Mayhew made it clear that he was restructuring the aging offensive line, looking to get younger and less expensive. Right guard Stephen Peterson was released. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, a free agent, was not pursued. Left tackle Jeff Backus retired. And Raiola was given an option - take a pay cut or be released.

Once he got over the initial shock, Raiola handled the situation with his usual mix of professionalism and pragmatism.

"It's a fact of life," he said. "I'm getting older. It's my job to come out here and prove myself. I still want to play. I still love the game and I love the organization. I want to win here and have winning years before I leave. There's unfinished business. It really wasn't a hard decision. I gave so much to this and they gave me so much. It's just coming to terms with me getting older."

As for the pay cut, Raiola will be the first to tell you he's going to be just fine. Besides the veteran's minimum of $950,000, he still receives the $2 million carry-over bonus.

"It's not unrealistic for anybody to say you've got to take a pay cut," he said. "It's ridiculous for me at this age to be making that much. It was an easy decision. You can't put a price tag on the relationships that you create here, on the people you meet off the field, uprooting, moving costs - but besides all that, my heart wasn't anywhere else. I always wanted to be here."

Raiola was also told, at least through channels, that his starting spot was not guaranteed. He was told that Bill Nagy, a third-year former starter for the Cowboys, would have a legitimate chance to be the starting center.

This didn't faze Raiola, either.

"I always felt like the job was never given to you," he said. "I always felt you have to prove yourself every year. For people to say it's a competition, that's really nothing new. There's only a handful of superstars; you've got to work for a job. Even they have to work for a job (he said while pointing at Calvin Johnson)."
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