Stafford 'excited to be a Lion'
Matthew Stafford was out to dinner with about 20 family members and friends in New York City when he got a call from his agent last night telling him the deal with the Lions was done. He returned to the table, kind of gave everybody the thumbs up, and, naturally, picked up the check.
In a teleconference shortly before the draft Saturday, Stafford said he was thrilled to be a Lion despite a tense last few days.
It's great, Stafford said. It's a huge relief and I'm just extremely excited to be a Lion. I can't wait to get out there and start playing some football.
How soon he gets on the field remains to be seen. Stafford said it's his competitive nature to want to play as soon as possible, and coach Jim Schwartz left open that possibility Saturday. But it still seems likely that Daunte Culpepper will open next season as starter.
Culpepper lost more than 30 pounds and looked good in minicamp, and the Lions, with 17 straight losses, could choose to bring Stafford along slowly because of their schedule that includes a torturous first two months.
Best player's going to play and I think we need to keep an eye toward that with Matthew, is he the best player and is he ready? Schwartz said. And both of those questions have to be answered. We're in a really good position right now with a rejuvenated Daunte Culpepper. Daunte's done an incredible job between the end of the season and now of making a commitment and being back, and I think anybody that saw any of our minicamp sees a lot of the old Daunte Culpepper.
I think it's a great situation to be in where we have a comfort level with what Daunte's done up to this point and we have a good young quarterback. We don't have to force our hand, we don't have to make a decision that's not based on merit.
It's a busy day here in a buzzing media room so I'm going to give you a couple other quick-hit thoughts on Stafford and be back later to discuss the draft's other happenings.
General manager Martin Mayhew said he honed in Stafford after Stafford's private workout in late March. It was just the way that he carried himself, how smart he was about the game and obviously the way he threw the football was very impressive, Mayhew said. I was at his pro day and the private workout. This guy can throw the football. We think our fans will be really excited to see Matthew.
Speaking of fans Stafford, who'll wear No. 9, said he's not discouraged by the negative reaction many in Detroit have to his selection. It's actually great to see that fans are passionate about the game and care about their team, he said. I'm going to come in there and work hard, put my nose to the floor and do what it takes to try to win. And I think in the end winning solves a lot of problems and hopefully I can help bring that to the city.
Schwartz was adamant that everyone in the organization was on board with the selection. When we started this process we went in with an open mind, he said. We didn't start this process saying, hey, we're starting a franchise, we're going to start with a quarterback or we're going to start with a left tackle or a defensive player. We let the process work.
This is year 17 in the NFL for me and this is probably one of the few times I remember in 17 years having a consensus in the building for a No. 1 pick. That goes from the area scout to the director of college scouting to the general manager to the assistant coach to the offensive coordinator to the head coach. I think when we started stacking the board and we started talking about different things in the selection at No. 1, the thing that came off very strong about Matthew was the consensus of opinion and it made it an easy pick.
Circle Nov. 8 on your calendar. That's when Stafford and the Lions play Aaron Curry and the Seahawks next season.
Edit: We're seven picks in and only one offensive tackle has been drafted so far. Surely Eugene Monroe will go in the next few picks, but could Michael Oher be on the board at 20 for the Lions? Or receiver Jeremy Maclin?