Even at the very end, Dominic Raiola continued to feel connected to the city of Detroit.
The longtime former Detroit Lions center spoke to the media on a conference call for about 10 minutes on Tuesday to address a career lasting 14 seasons, six head coaches, two playoff appearances and one forgettable winless season.
He was out front for so much of it, too, the longest-tenured Lion until a week after this season when he found out he would be a Lion no more.
"I want to be remembered as a guy who went to work every day, left everything on the field and prepared his butt off and always came ready to play," Raiola said Tuesday. "Played with passion. Yeah, it was controversial at times but if you live in the city, nobody knows that unless you live in the city.
"If you're one with the city, you understand the passion I played with and what I brought every day. It was grouped together. That's how I was raised and it just so happened it was ironic that I got drafted here and really fell in love with this city and I don't know if a lot of people would say the same back but I would hope that. I would hope that I would be looked at that way."
Raiola always played with passion and an edge to him that sometimes got him in trouble, be it flipping off or cursing at fans or yelling obscenities as the Wisconsin Marching Band. It led to a suspension this season and a fine for another incident as well. Yet that passion is something both general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Caldwell echoed in statements released by the team about Raiola.
Raiola, though, also represents one of the last vestiges to a rough past for Detroit.
He was the last player on the Lions to play in the old Pontiac Silverdome. He was one of five players on last year's roster -- along with Calvin Johnson and free agents Don Muhlbach, Andre Fluellen and Dan Orlovsky -- to be on the 2008 team that went 0-16.
And he was part of the losing past while trying to change the present. Raiola won little in Detroit. He never picked up a division title. He never played a playoff game at home and never won a playoff game period. The Lions had only two winning seasons in his tenure.
Yet he still felt extremely tied to the city of Detroit and the Lions, mentioning it often during a 10-minute farewell conference call.
"I'm sorry that, that's one thing that if I could apologize to people in this city that I'm sorry that we couldn't be more successful and ultimately win a championship while I was here," Raiola said. "That's, it sucks but I really mean that. Some people can take it how they want but the real fans know that I really mean that and it really comes from the heart."
He found out his fate for sure when the Lions called him into their offices the week after the season ended. He met with offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, team president Tom Lewand, Mayhew and Caldwell to tell him they would not be re-signing him for a 15th season.
Raiola said he wasn't given reasons for why Detroit chose not to bring him back, although there has been a strong impetus with the franchise to become younger on the offensive line after the Lions gave up 45 sacks in 2014.
After a strong 2013 season, Raiola regressed in 2014, rated as the No. 37 center by Pro Football Focus for his play throughout the year. A year after allowing no sacks according to PFF, he gave up four. He has maintained all along he believes he can still play in the NFL and said he hasn't given much thought one way or the other to retirement because right now, he still wants to play.
"Obviously I still think I can play," Raiola said. "I think a bunch of people probably don't think I can but a bunch of people haven't took a snap in the NFL, either. I don't know, I'm just digesting this right now with my family."