Carlos Monarrez | Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders watched with keen interest when his former team agreed to a trade that sent longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.
During a conference call Tuesday, Sanders said he was “wowed” by the “monumental blockbuster” trade over the weekend.
As soon as news of the trade broke, Lions fans compared the team’s treatment of Stafford to that of Sanders and Calvin Johnson — two of the franchise’s best players who officially were never discussed as trade options and retired early.
Sanders retired on the eve of training camp July 27, 1999. But he said there was never talk about him being traded.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, it wasn’t really a topic of conversation back then. And I think for me it was just about being done with playing football because I generally liked being here in Detroit and liked the fact that we were going to try to establish a winner from a team that hadn’t won much. And I think we got part of the ways there.”
In 1991, Sanders helped the Lions win their only playoff game since 1957. And he helped the Lions win the NFC Central title in 1993, their most recent division championship.
Sanders said there wasn’t any explicit talk of a possible trade, but he indicated he would have welcomed a trade to an elite team.
“So I think yeah, I mean when you’re playing in a winning situation and had I been somewhere else or traded somewhere else, it’s hard to say,” he said. “Depends on who you’re traded to. If you’re saying that I would have been able to go team up with Joe Montana, I mean who wouldn’t love that or something like that?”
Sanders laughed heartily when he mentioned Montana, who won four Super Bowls and was the gold standard for quarterbacks during Sanders’ era.
But joining Montana may have been more of a theoretical wish for Sanders since Montana’s career was winding down as Sanders was beginning his. Montana won his final Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 1989 — Sanders’ rookie year — and retired after the 1994 season, his second with the Kansas City Chiefs.
You may not recognize this team
Sanders said the Lions’ trade of Stafford after 12 seasons signaled that the franchise is committed to a whole new start.
“I was wowed, man,” he said. “I was wowed by the trade. Like a lot of people, (I thought) it was just a monumental blockbuster. It’s like really saying OK we’re really turning the page here right? We’re really turning the page and I guess we’re really writing a whole new chapter and starting a whole new book basically.
“Because you look at the GM, the coach, the starting quarterback that’s been here for over a decade. So it’s going to be a lot of new faces. You may not even recognize the team, but hopefully the main thing is coach (Dan) Campbell’s coming in, putting his personality on the team and moving forward. Obviously we can talk for a long time about what Matthew has meant to the franchise. And so we wish him well.”
In exchange for Stafford, the Rams sent the Lions quarterback Jared Goff, a five-year veteran who led L.A. to the Super Bowl two years ago, as well as two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder.
“Jared has had the opportunity to play in some huge settings and big games,” Sanders said. “In his short time in the NFL, he was in the Super Bowl two years ago and so hopefully he can just build on that.
“I see him as entering into his prime. In what his fifth, sixth year or whatever, he’s entering into his prime and hopefully that’s the way he sees it and he can come here and establish a new way of doing business in this division.”
Sanders spoke during an appearance to promote the second annual Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes. Those looking to enter the giveaway can register for free at RocketMortgageSquares.com. Just like last year’s sweepstakes, two lucky winners will be drawn at random and win $500,000 each. Rocket Mortgage will also award $50,000 for each scoring play during Super Bowl 55 on Sunday in Tampa, Florida.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.
Lions make a huge statement, sending Stafford to Rams for Goff, picks
Dave Birkett, Shawn Windsor and Carlos Monarrez break down the Detroit Lions’ trade, sending Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and draft picks.
Dave Birkett, Shawn Windsor and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press