Kalif Raymond has stepped into an important role for the Detroit Lions the last couple seasons, and Sunday’s game against the Jets will be a full circle moment for him.
Over the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions, Kalif Raymond has stepped into an important role. He set a far and away career-highs with 48 receptions for 576 yards in 2021, and if he’d had enough returns to qualify his 11.2 yard average per punt return would have been top-10 in the league.
This season, with additions made in the offseason, Raymond was headed for smaller role in the Lions’ offense. But injuries have opened up some opportunity, and he has 34 catches for 401 yards over the first 13 games. He is also among the league leaders with 12.6 yards per punt return average.
Raymond has found a place in the NFL now, regardless of his long-term future as a Lion. But it wasn’t always that way.
After spending the 2016 season with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie, Raymond landed with the New York Jets off waivers just before the start of the 2017 season. He lasted two games with the Jets, with struggles as a punt returner earning him a pink slip, and he did almost nothing with the New York Giants (one catch over six games played) over the rest of that season.
Justin Rogers of The Detroit News has a piece on Raymond ahead of Sunday’s game against the Jets.
Sunday’s game against the Jets a full circle moment for Lions WR Kalif Raymond
After that 2017 season, Raymond had a decision–retire as a football player, or find ways to get better and keep going. He adopted a new routine, getting up early, working out, working with a JUGS machine, meditation/mental health, etc.
"That year taught me a lot about how to mentally adjust,” Raymond said. “In new situations, new environments, I learned to be controlled, calm, gather my surroundings and find my niche. …I think no matter what, it’s always going to be a fight. I’m going to have nerves every time I go back there to catch a punt.I don’t think, as a man, you ever find a level of comfort,” Raymond said. “The work is never done, but as long as you keep fighting, you’ll be able to handle the highs and the lows. I have ammo now. I have a weapon and a shield to fight."
Raymond spent the 2018-2020 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, appearing in a total of 23 games over the 2019 and 2020 seasons as he bounced from the practice squad to the active roster.
Raymond’s performance last season earned him a two-year contract extension from the Lions. He’ll suit up against the Jets for the first time on Sunday, coming full circle from a time when he legitimately questioned his future in football.