NASHVILLE – There's a small and shifty receiver making plays for the Titans in training camp, and we're not talking about Adam Humphries this time.
This story is about Kalif Raymond, who has consistently managed to get open and catch passes in practices. Last week, Raymond was rewarded with a good number of first team reps.
"I just got thrown in there with the big dogs to see if I can handle it," Raymond said with a smile, "and those are opportunities right there, opportunities to make plays and show what you can do."
Consider Humphries, a top free agency acquisition by the Titans this offseason, among those who've been impressed.
"Kalif has looked amazing," Humphries said.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Raymond has earned his chances.
"He's got good speed, good quickness, and he plays hard," Vrabel said of Raymond. "His speed gets him opportunities and we keep putting him in there."
So, who is Kalif Raymond?
Well, he's actually been around a bit.
The 5-foot-8, 182-pound Raymond was signed to the team's practice squad during Week 17 of the 2018 season – his second stint with the team last year -- to add speed to the receiving corps as well as return ability.
He was originally signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft, and appeared in four games as a rookie. He's also spent time with the New York Jets and New York Giants, bouncing back and forth on active rosters and practice squads. He's played in 12 games in his NFL career, and has one catch for 12 yards, along with 29 career punt returns (7.2-yard average) and 20 career kickoff returns (20.4-yard average).
Raymond, who grew in Atlanta, played collegiately at Holy Cross, where he appeared in 40 games with 23 starts over four seasons (2012-15) as a wide receiver and return specialist. He was productive, totaling 155 receptions for 1,683 yards and 14 touchdowns while also returning 62 punts for 464 yards and a score as well as 80 kickoffs for 1,809 yards and two touchdowns.
"The more experience you can get, the more things you can learn that you need to work on," Raymond said of his prior experience. "During the course of the last four years I've learned a lot of things that I can do to improve my game."
Raymond said he grew up a fan of Steve Smith, another small receiver who enjoyed a long career with the Panthers and Ravens.
He's followed other smaller receivers in the NFL, and has been motivated by their success. He mentioned Patriots receiver Julian Edelman when rolling off a list of players he admires.
"I know I am not the only small guy in the league," Raymond said. "Steve Smith, he was a very strong-minded person. He was tenacious and he went out there and balled, and that's what I try to do. It's what you have to do. You want to go out there and ball, and always try to make a statement."
Raymond, who has been waived eight times overall, knows if he's going to make the team's 53-man roster he's going to have to keep it up.
The Titans have solid depth at receiver, but an injury to Cameron Batson (who was placed on Injured Reserve) has potentially opened up a spot for someone to grab.
Preseason games, beginning with Thursday's game at Philadelphia, will provide more opportunities.
"Camp has been going well, but there's some things I definitely want to work on – that's what camp is for. So I want to come out here and be as consistent as I can," Raymond said.
"It is one thing to do it in practice, but under the lights is big – everyone has four very important opportunities. I just have to stay in the moment, and if you make the plays you are supposed to it will take care of itself."