DETROIT – Matthew Stafford says he didn't give much thought to opting out of this coming season.
It would have been understandable if he'd considered it.
“I think like everybody, you hear it and you talk with your spouse and your family about it. I never gave it serious, you know, thought,” Stafford said Tuesday. “I want to play football. I want to be out here. I have a supporting wife and family that know I love doing what I do and know it's important to me, so they were right on board.”
Stafford and his family have dealt with their share of stress over the past couple of years. His wife had surgery last year to remove a brain tumor. Then Stafford went through football-related injuries that halted his 2019 season. His status was momentarily uncertain again recently when he was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Aug. 1. He was removed three days later, with the Lions saying it was a false positive.
Stafford's wife Kelly expressed her frustration on Instagram, suggesting that information such as that shouldn't be released until it's absolutely certain the person has COVID-19. Shortly after that, the NFL’s chief medical officer said the league was establishing a new protocol for positive tests.
“It's totally unknown times for all of us. The league, the players, coaches, the organization as a whole," Stafford said. "Everything is new and it's unknown. I know everybody's doing the best that they possibly can.”
It's hard to blame Stafford and his family for being a little on edge. Kelly Stafford had surgery to remove a brain tumor in April 2019. Matthew Stafford's injuries later that year seemed trivial by comparison, but it was a tough season for the Detroit quarterback, who dealt with back and hip problems and missed the final eight games.
Stafford had been enjoying a fine season before the injuries caught up with him. He ended up with a career-best passer rating of 106 in the eight games he did play. When he was finally sidelined, it was the first time he’d missed any game since the 2010 season.
“Obviously last year with Matthew didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” coach Matt Patricia said recently. “Certainly his drive, his competitiveness, I knew he’d be right back at it as soon as he could. Just keeping him healthy and making sure that he went into the offseason as safe as possible was important for us, and certainly through training camp as we go with him knowing the offseason was limited."
There was already uncertainty about this NFL season — and whether it could even be played — when Stafford tested positive and went on COVID-IR.
“I had no reason to not believe the results or whatever, except for the fact that I was feeling fine. But there's plenty of people out there that are positive and asymptomatic as well," he said. "There was no doubt there was some fear, as I think everybody would have if they got a test that came back positive. And just knowing how much that I'm around and have been around my family and my kids, that's a little bit of a scary thing.”
Now, those fears have subsided a bit, and Stafford can focus more on the upcoming season.
“I feel good. It's obviously exciting to get back in the building," Stafford said. "Not having an offseason, OTAs, and just being able to be around the guys, throw and catch — all that kind of stuff is stuff you miss, so I'm happy to be back. I feel good, body feels good.”
So Stafford feels healthy, and this latest bit of drama with his positive test is behind him. It was an episode that underscored the potential worries that can come up as the NFL tries to play through the virus.
Stafford is trying to keep his situation in perspective.
“It's not lost on me that there's plenty of people that are having a much harder time than we did," Stafford said. "Ours was a few days that lasted and got corrected, and I know the league is going to do everything they can to correct that. But at the same time, there's plenty of people walking out there — or not walking, they're in hospitals — that are really fighting for their life.”
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