In their three seasons together, Tracy Walker saw plenty of good and some bad from Matthew Stafford.
And as they get ready to face each other as opponents for the first time Sunday, Walker said he picked up some tells from his former quarterback that he hopes will help the 0-6 Detroit Lions get their first win of the season against the Los Angeles Rams.
“I’ve got a couple things, but I ain’t going to sit here and say it to the media,” Walker said Wednesday. “Just my little insiders. But Stafford’s a great quarterback. There’s not really much you can take from him that you can find as a weakness. Honestly, you just got to go out there and play ball and execute your assignments.”
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Stafford, the Lions quarterback from 2009-20, is off to one of the best starts of his career.
Through six games, he ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,838 passing yards and is tied for third with 16 touchdowns. He is a legitimate MVP candidate, and the Rams (5-1) are Super Bowl contenders.
Walker said he was not surprised when Stafford asked for a trade after last season.
“I kind of expected that he was going to leave,” he said.
And he said he sees a lot of the same gunslinger in Stafford now that he got used to playing with in Detroit.
“Honestly, Stafford’s just getting back there, running the offense the way he wants to run it,” Walker said. “He’s throwing the ball at a high, exceptional level, and he’s playing free, he’s having fun. You can definitely see that on film and I’m definitely looking forward to him going out there and trying to have fun against us.”
In their practice battles over the years, Walker said he intercepted Stafford “a couple times” in practice. If he gets his first of the season Sunday, he said, “I’m going to make him sign it, just ’cause.”
“It’s all love,” Walker said. “That’s the business of it. That’s the nature of this business. Sometimes you can be home here, next year you might not. So at the end of the day, you just got to build on relationships that you already have and hold those relationships when you play and compete against those teammates. Just like I said, wish him the best.”
Tight end T.J. Hockenson missed practice Wednesday because of the knee injury that has limited him the past two weeks, but the third-year player said he is in no danger of missing Sunday’s game.
“You know how I am,” Hockenson said. “I’ll be out there on Sunday.”
Defensive lineman Nick Williams (knee) and fullback Jason Cabinda (hip) also sat out Wednesday’s practice, while D’Andre Swift (groin), Michael Brockers (shoulder), Trey Flowers (knee), Charles Harris (oblique) and Will Harris (rib) were limited.
The Lions designated defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand to return to practice from injured reserve. Hand has been out since training camp with a groin injury. The Lions have three weeks to reinstate him to the 53-man roster or keep him on IR for the rest of the year.