From virtual walk-throughs to Zoom, how Lions’ Matthew Stafford is preparing for Vikings

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Chase Daniel is preparing to start at quarterback Sunday for the Detroit Lions, but after 11 NFL seasons, even he knows how unlikely that is.

Daniel took first-team reps in practice Friday for the third straight day with Matthew Stafford on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but Stafford was an active if virtual participant, even taking part in the team’s blitz walk-through.

“Other than him being in the building, his voice is still very loud and he’s the leader of this offense, leader of this team, so (his involvement this week was) exactly what you want,” Daniel said. “And when I say loud, I mean in a good way. He’s in all of our Zoom meetings, he’s in everything that we do. He did our little blitz walk-through today. It’s crazy what technology can do these days, and we’re having a good time with it and he’s making the adjustments and changes on the run, so it’s been a good week.”

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Stafford, who was in close contact with a known COVID-19 positive person, did not practice with the Lions all week. He remains in isolation and must receive negative results on COVID tests Saturday and Sunday before he’s cleared to play against the Minnesota Vikings.

He is not expected to travel with the team to Minnesota, but can take part in pregame meetings virtually.

“He’s the heart and soul of this team, so as the Lions go, so does Matthew Stafford,” Daniel said. “For him not to be here, it’s difficult on him, knowing him and the competitor he is. But there’s no doubt in my mind if he were to play, he doesn’t need practice. He’s done it a lot of times. … If anyone can do it, it’s Matthew.”

Lions coach Matt Patricia said Stafford’s absence likely had more impact on his teammates’ preparation than it did on him.

Stafford, in his 12th NFL season, has played 19 games against the Vikings in his career, including 11 against Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s defense. He knows Minnesota’s personnel well, and is known to be diligent in his preparation.

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“I think if you called Matt Stafford on an April day and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go play a 60-minute football game,’ he’d be able to go out there and rip it,” Patricia said. “He’d be fine. He’d see defenses; he’d see coverage. He’d be doing all the right things. He’s a great vet. He knows how to play the game.

“I do always think in the game of football that there’s a little continuity that needs to go on, and especially when you have different guys out on the field and maybe different players in different positions week in, week out and all that. So I do think that’s why practice is important from that standpoint, but I trust Matt Stafford to always do the right things, be ready to go and that’s where we are right now.”

The Lions will have some offensive personnel in different spots this week.

Kenny Golladay (hip) and Jamal Agnew (ribs) are out with injuries, which means Quintez Cephus and Marvin Hall could play bigger roles at receiver. Guard Joe Dahl (back) also is questionable to play, though the Lions have rotated personnel on their offensive line all season.

“I feel really good about our week of practice,” Daniel said. “I thought we were really sharp Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We came out there today and I think one ball hit the ground in red zone work today. So it was a good day out there for us and it’s been fun. And I think that this will only help me down the road if I ever have to play.”

Daniel, who signed a three-year free agent deal with the Lions in March, said coaches have not given him any indication of when they’ll know for sure that Stafford will play Sunday.

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If Stafford cannot go, Daniel will make his sixth career start. He’s 2-3 as a starter and played extensively for the Chicago Bears as a backup last season in a 16-6 win over the Vikings.

“For me, I’m relishing the role of being the starter and that’s what I’m going to go into this game as,” Daniel said. “I thought we had a really good week of practice, really good communication. And we love the game plan. But yeah, I would say, by far, in 12 years, no doubt it’s the craziest week I’ve ever been a part of.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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