Of all the sentiments Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is feeling days ahead of facing his former team for the first team, gratitude appears to be leading the way.
After a dozen years with the Detroit Lions, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009, Stafford requested a trade this offseason and was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams, where he’s seen expectations and success he rarely experienced in Detroit.
But when asked to dissect the differences between the two situations, as the 5-1 Rams prepare to host the winless Lions, Stafford had little interest.
“I asked for a trade not knowing anywhere I was going to be,” he told Los Angeles media. “There were a bunch of different spots where I thought I could go. I ended up here. I’m extremely happy to be here. I pinch myself getting the opportunity to play for this team with these players and these coaches.
“As far as comparing it to Detroit, I’m not going to do it,” he continued. “I just know that I’m having a blast playing a bunch of football with some great players and great coaches. I loved my time in Detroit. I loved all the experiences that I had — some of them were tough, but they helped mold me into the player and the person I am today. I spent some really meaningful time in my life, both on and off the field, in Detroit and I really enjoyed all of it. I’m having fun what I’m doing right now. I had a great experience for 12 years in Detroit. That’s kind of how I want to leave it.”
Stafford tore up the franchise record books with the Lions, smashing nearly every passing mark imaginable. Still, team success eluded the strong-armed quarterback. He amassed a 74-90-1 record as a starter, while failing to win a division title. He did steer the team to three postseason appearances, but never escaped the wild-card round.
That made Stafford one of the most divisive athletes in Detroit sports history, with the primary debate centering around whether the player or the team around him was more culpable for the lack of success? In L.A., he’s potentially answering that question with the Rams looking like a legitimate Super Bowl contenders and Stafford playing the best football of his career.
But he wasn’t taking the bait when asked if the Lions did enough to support him.
“I know when I was in Detroit, everybody was doing everything we could to make the team as good as we could, myself included,” he said. “I’m in a new place now. I’m here in L.A., lucky to be surrounded by the people I’m surrounded with, no doubt. I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunities and win as many games as I possibly can. Appreciate my time in Detroit. Appreciate all the players I played with, all the coaches that coached me and everybody else on our team, but I don’t spend too much time thinking about it or reading that narrative, to be honest with you.”
Many of the fans who supported Stafford through his ups and downs in Detroit have continued to cheer his accomplishments with the Rams. That love hasn’t been lost on the longtime Lion.
“Yeah, I mean I appreciate that very much,” he said. “I could see how it could be very easy for people to feel the other way, and for people to take some happiness in any kind of success that any former player is having away from their building is really just a testament to them, as well. That’s the kind of people they are in Detroit. Great people, both in the organization and in the city itself. I really did enjoy my time (there). I had great relationships built and maybe that has something to do with it. But I think it’s more of a testament, not to me, but to the people of Detroit that they can cheer an ex-player as much as they have for me.”