Lions Matthew Stafford: From china doll to Ironman

Stafford had rough start in first 2 seasons

ALLEN PARK >> Matthew Stafford was injury plagued in his first two seasons with the Lions. As a rookie in 2009 he played in 10 games and the next season was only healthy enough to start three.

It was so bad fans were turning on him (imagine that) and his teammate linebacker Zack Follett called him a “china doll.”

Once he regained his health in 2011, Stafford has 107 consecutive regular season starts.

With Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive regular season starts coming to an end due to coach Ben McAdoo’s bonehead decision to start Geno Smith, that moves Stafford up to No. 3 on the NFL’s active consecutive starts by a quarterback list behind the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (148) and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (126).

“It’s difficult. I think you look across this league, there’s guys at every position showing up on Sunday and playing and doing a great job that I feel like the normal human being wouldn’t be out there doing that,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “These guys are impressive people. I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’ll try to play as many games in a row as I possibly can and play at a high level. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Stafford said his streak means a lot to him.

“I think just coming from my first couple of years in the League and some of the tough times that came with that as far as injuries go and missing games and not being able to be out there with the guys,’’ Stafford said. “So, it’s nice to be able to be out there and have a bunch of games under my belt.”

Stafford’s teammates appreciate his durability.

“We all know what Eli bought to that team and what he brings to the team. Obviously we have an ironman quarterback ourselves and that’s a good thing to have. To know that when it  comes down to it, your guy is going to be out there for you,’’ wide receiver Marvin Jones said.

It extends beyond game day with Stafford to everyday practice. He is always there.

“All of us tip our hats off to him, it’s a lot of meetings and a lot of extra stuff that goes with being in that position. To be able to do that for a long period of time it’s to be applauded,” wide receiver Marvin Jones said.

Stafford gets credit from around the NFL, including Baltimore coach John Harbaugh whose Ravens (6-5) play the Lions (6-5) on Sunday.

“I just think it’s one of the great accomplishments because you’re the target. You’re the quarterback, you’re the target, and this is a rough game. And that guy is a guy that really runs everything. Especially there, I mean Matthew does just an amazing job of running the offense on the field,” Harbaugh said in a conference call on Wednesday. “He operates. Coach (Jim) Caldwell and Coach (Jim Bob) Cooter they have a really good system, and he’s the guy that runs it on the field. So, it’s a really important for him to be out there, and he’s just done a fabulous job of consistency and how well he plays from week to week, and being out there, and overcoming the bumps and bruises that are usually even more than that. He seems like he’s a very tough guy. It’s just been very impressive to see.”

Brett Favre is atop the all-time consecutive starts for a quarterback chart with 297. Eli Manning is at 210 while his brother Peyton Manning sits at 208.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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