Stafford Unruffled By Rumors, Ready To Go In 2020: 'I Love Leading This Team'

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The rumors began early in the offseason, and they picked up steam in approach of the draft. They gained so much traction that Bob Quinn had to shut them down, more than once. Then Matt Patricia. No, they both insisted. The Lions are not trying to trade, replace or in any way move on from Matthew Stafford. 

There was the report from WDIV that Detroit was shopping its franchise quarterback. There were numerous reports out of Miami, with the Dolphins eyeing a QB in the draft, that Detroit was preparing to draft Stafford's successor. There were reports from all over, and Stafford's wife Kelly only added fuel to the fire when she took to Instagram to suggest their time in Detroit was coming to an end. 

Meanwhile, Stafford stayed cool. He told Quinn in a phone conversation in February he had no interest in changing teams. And that was that, not that the rumors ever got to him in the first place. 

"I really don’t pay too much attention to them. I pay less attention to them than my wife does, but it’s something that doesn’t bother me," Stafford told local media in a video conference Thursday. "Listen, I’m here. I want to be here. I love being a Detroit Lion, I love leading this team. All that kind of stuff is just out there to be out there -- it’s a slow news month at that point.

"I’m just happy to be where I am, ready to deal with this offseason the way it is, and try to make the best of a season that I hope happens." 

Stafford said he also spoke with Patricia on the matter, while declining to reveal any specifics. In his mind, there's not much to discuss. He's signed through 2022, he was playing some of the best football of his career last season before getting hurt, and he wants to help build a winner in Detroit, once and for all. He snapped his fingers and said the conversations were over "like that." 

"I’m moving on," he said. "I was ready to prepare and be the best quarterback I can be for this team for a long time. It was probably a whole lot more to (the media) and the fans out there than it was to me."

The rumors began in part because of Stafford's health. He missed the second half of 2019 with microfractures in his back, his second serious back injury in as many seasons. Maybe all that mileage -- 136 starts in a row -- was catching up to him. Maybe it was time for the Lions to change gears at quarterback. 

But Stafford reiterated Thursday that he's good to go heading into his 12th NFL season. 

"I feel great. It’s healthy, healed up. I’m moving around as good as a slow dude can move around," he quipped.

It's not clear if the season -- or training camp -- will start on time due to the coronavirus, but Stafford said, "If we could put the pads on today and go play, I would do it."

To get his arm back into gear, Stafford began the offseason throwing with Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola. The latter has even paid him a visit in Atlanta, where Stafford has spent most of his quarantine. He's also had a few throwing sessions recently with draft picks D'Andre Swift and Quintez Cephus. 

"I think my teammates know, the guys that have been with me, seen me throw it around, I’m as good as I’ve been the last couple years physically," Stafford said. "I’m excited. I’m hoping that everything goes as safe and as smooth as it can this offseason and we’re allowed back in at some point, because I’ve put a lot of work into being where I am, and I know a lot of other guys on our team are doing the same."

It's been a trying couple years for Stafford, with the Lions stuck in the bottom of the NFC North and the quarterback stuck on the sidelines for a good chunk of 2019. Not to mention the health scare Kelly endured last year, or the rumors that followed Stafford this offseason. It would have been easy for doubts to creep into his head, about his future with the Lions, about his future in football. 

If so, Stafford quickly shook them out. He never considered that he might not be where he's always been this season, under center for Detroit. 

"Not really, I just prepare. I’m kind of boring in that aspect, that I just prepare to be here and to do my job at a higher level than I did it the year before," Stafford said. "Were there frustrating times and times that were tough? Absolutely. Playing through what I played through two years ago was not fun, and last year having the season end early for me was really tough.

"To work all offseason to get back and feel great and be playing at a pretty good clip and then have it taken from you is tough, and makes you realize just how much you love playing the game."

It's a game he'll keep playing in Detroit, the same dude and the same team looking for a different ending in 2020.