It took a long time for Kalif Raymond to stick on an NFL roster.
Eleven times, Raymond has either been waived from an NFL team’s 53-man roster or released from the practice squad.
But now after making it through a full season on the Tennessee Titans roster in 2019, Raymond is ready for more in his second full season with the club.
This year, Raymond will start life as the fourth receiver for the Titans and also will have both the punt return and kickoff return chores on his plate this season.
Raymond got a taste of both roles last year, returning four punts and18 kickoffs in 2019.
But special teams coach Craig Aukerman said Thursday that Raymond will have both roles to start this season. He will not have to share the punt return roles with Adam Humphries or Adoree’ Jackson, both of whom factored into that spot last year.
Raymond was the primary kickoff returner last year, but was expected to be challenged for that spot by rookie running back Darrynton Evans, who missed time in camp with an undisclosed injury.
“Kalif has earned the right to go back there as a kickoff returner and punt returner,” Aukerman said. “He’s done a great job during training camp and we feel comfortable with him. I’m actually really excited for him to go out there. Eventually, if Darrynton can be that guy, then so be it. But Kalif has earned that right to go back there and do both for us now.”
Having Raymond settle into both roles should help the return units get used to just one guy’s running style on returns. That is something Aukerman said former Titans special teams ace Tim Shaw told him was important in the return game for blockers to be accustomed to the return man’s running style.
“Returners are all different, and I learned this a long time ago from Tim Shaw, who played with Devin Hester,” Aukerman said. “Tim’s whole idea was that you always wanted to have great leverage on his block, but then he came to the conclusion that when I have a guy who is an exceptional returner, then it doesn’t really matter which way I block it, I’m just going to go and get my hands on it.
“Now our guys can understand that maybe Kalif likes it this way. He likes it to the right, or he likes it to the left or he may hit it up the middle. They’ll get a feel for that, and then we’ll do our jobs as coaches to try and put him in the best situation for what he likes. Our players can see that and block the guys how we want them blocked. I think it’s going to be big for us with Kalif being back there and them having the confidence in him going back there.”