ALLEN PARK >> The Detroit Lions have been accused of many things over the decades. Being cheap is usually on the list, even if it’s not accurate.
Well they opened the vault on Monday making quarterback Matthew Stafford the highest paid NFL player with a five-year, $135 million contract extension.
It seemed like a no-brainer. Stafford has been good for the Lions and they respect the 29-year-old quarterback.
They don’t expect anything to change now that he’ll have more money in the bank.
That’s how Stafford sees it too. He said he didn’t feel different on Tuesday.
“I work extremely hard no matter what my salary is for the year or anything like that. It’s just part of what comes with the position of playing quarterback in this league and playing it at a high level, and that’s what I strive to do,’’ Stafford said. “And I don’t do that for anything other than the guys in the locker room, the coaching staff that puts in all the hard work to get us ready to play, and my teammates. Obviously, couldn’t have gotten to this point without a lot of help from all those guys.”
At a press conference at the Lions facility on Tuesday, vice president and general manager Bob Quinn, coach Jim Caldwell and Stafford spoke about the contract and its consequences.
Five of the highlights:
1. Detroit is where Stafford wants to finish his NFL career. The extension will get him almost home. He’s signed through 2022 when he’ll be 35. “I’ve loved playing here. I’m going to continue to love playing here. Obviously, a great ownership group. I love playing for the Fords. Mrs. Ford reached out to me today. I had a great conversation with her. Her family is always around and great. So, that makes it a lot of fun for me,’’ Stafford said. “And then, the guys in the locker room. Teammates, coaches, front office guys were all involved, were all in this. And I consider myself lucky to be a part of it, and just happy that I can continue here for another six years at least.”
2. The two sides first met in February so this was about a seven-month project. It’s not like they had a major issue on one part of the contract. “I think I told Matt I wanted to get it done the first time we talked about it, but I knew it takes time, so. Not one thing in particular, just a lot of back and forth,’’ Quinn said. “It’s a lot of conversation, it’s a lot of emails, it’s a lot of text messages, it’s a lot of work. So, not one thing in particular.” Quinn would not get into specifics about the negotiations. “I’m not going to get into what the gaps were. All I know is what we came to, was a fair deal on both sides. We made some concessions, they made some concessions, and we’re at where we’re at today,’’ Quinn said.
3. During the spring and training camp, Stafford was mostly mum about the negotiations, answering politely when he was asked. He put everything in the hands of his agent Tom Condon. Even last week he wouldn’t say if they would continue talks if a deal wasn’t done before the start of the season. Well, turns out it was important to get it done prior to next week. “It wasn’t something that all along I knew was going to be the case, but as it got into training camp a little bit I realized that I think we have an extremely talented team, and for us to be worrying about, or anybody, even myself, about my contract situation or what it was going to be, was going to be a disservice to the organization, to our team, to the players in the locker room,’’ Stafford said. “So, I wanted to get this thing done and kind of realized that during training camp. And like Bob (Quinn) said, without Mrs. Ford, Bob’s hard work, Matt Harriss, Rod Wood, Coach (Caldwell), everybody involved it took everybody to get it done in the time frame it did, including Tom Condon and my guys at CAA.”
4. Jim Caldwell has been a big Matthew Stafford fan since they first met. The day Caldwell was hired he was asked if he could fix Stafford and he snapped back, “He’s not broken.” Stafford has done nothing to change the coach’s opinion. Caldwell expects Stafford won’t change even though he’s the highest paid player in the NFL. “It’s not like he hasn’t had any money in his pocket. But you know, the guys that we’ve had an opportunity to be around that have his kind of talent and focus, they don’t change much. They don’t deviate from their norm,’’ said Caldwell who worked for years with Peyton Manning.
5. When Quinn was hired 20 months ago he did not know Stafford at all. So at his introductory presser he wasn’t quite sure if Stafford was the franchise’s future. He didn’t want to commit before he got to know him. “What I found, when you’re on a different team and you don’t really know someone personally, you don’t deal with them on a day-by-day basis, you don’t go on the practice field with them, you don’t see them in pregame warm-ups, you don’t see them interact with your teammates,’’ Quinn said. “If you don’t see that every day, it’s hard to really get a real strong feel on the player. I mean, I could watch tape until I’m blue in the face on Matthew when I was in Foxborough, but to see him work, to see him lead, to see him practice, to see the time that he puts in preparing for each week and each season, that’s the big thing for me.”
BONUS. Stafford had nice things to say about Detroit. “I’ve made Detroit my home. And obviously I have a family now (his wife Kelly and twin daughters attended the press conference). You can hear them in the background cheering for me, I guess. But no I’ve really enjoyed it,” Stafford said. “I’ve learned to embrace everything good, bad about the city. I think that’s what’s great about the people of Detroit. It’s not always perfect but the fabric of this city is amazing and it’s a really tight knit community. So, I’ve enjoyed my time. I know I’m going to enjoy the next six years and hopefully more after that. Being a part of not only this organization, but this city and this state.”