'Iron man' Kalif Raymond gets Detroit Lions game ball, DeShon Elliott dislocates shoulder
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After Dan Campbell gave Kalif Raymond a game ball following the Detroit Lions' 20-17 win over the New York Jets, several of Raymond's teammates came up to him in the locker room shocked to learn the punt return touchdown he scored Sunday was the first of his career.
"Everyone thinks that he’s scored before," Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. "But he hasn’t, and I knew that all along that he’s wanted to score and he’s been so close on some this year, he’s busted a few. But for it to come right now at this point in the season, and it’s a big game for us ... it’s amazing. I’m super happy for him. I know his family’s happy. And it’s just, couldn’t be happier for him."
Raymond scored the first points of what turned out to be a defensive struggle Sunday, going 47 yards down the left sideline through a wall of blockers to stake the Lions to an early 7-0 lead.
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The Lions entered the week second in the NFL in punt return average, and Raymond was averaging a career-high 12.6 yards per return.
He had long returns in games against the Minnesota Vikings (35 yards) and Buffalo Bills (41 yards), and seemed perpetually close to breaking a big play.
On Sunday, it happened four plays after the Lions were stopped at the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal on their opening possession.
The Lions forced a three-and-out on the ensuing series, and with Braden Mann punting from his own end zone, Raymond got good blocks from jammers Jerry Jacobs and Amani Oruwariye and another from James Houston on his way to the end zone.
“I saw a lot of guys blocking really hard," Raymond said. "I mean, it was just almost like a wall. I barely had to do anything. It’s all those guys. James Houston at the end, I catch his eye, he’s doing a monster block, so I always tell those guys that you never see a returner break 11 tackles. There’s 10, 11 other guys on the field and those guys will make the play happen."
Along with his return score, Raymond caught five passes for 53 yards Sunday, with three of them going for first downs.
A career journeyman who spent three weeks with the Jets in the 2017 season, Raymond has turned into one of the Lions' most reliable receivers and a player that St. Brown said is one of everyone's favorite teammates.
"He’s our iron man," Campbell said. "He does everything for us. He’s been in there with some of the injuries we’ve had at receiver, he’s been in there every day. Every game, every practice, he just goes. He’s selfless, he’s disciplined, he’s a hard worker, he’s smart, he’s productive, he endears himself to his teammates, he’s versatile, he can block, he can play in the slot, he can play outside, he’s got run after catch, he’s a damn good punt returner. I think he’d be a great gunner, too. We want to be smart with how we use him. He does everything for us and he doesn’t bat an eye. He doesn’t whine. He doesn’t complain. It’s never too hard. It’s never this job is too much. He just goes. What do you need me to do and he goes. You can’t have enough of those guys."
Lions safety DeShon Elliott left Sunday's game with a dislocated shoulder and is scheduled for further evaluation Monday. C.J. Moore and Kerby Joseph finished the game at safety for the Lions, who lost starter Tracy Walker to a torn Achilles earlier this season.
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Lions' 'iron man' Kalif Raymond gets game ball after punt return TD