ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford will start his 11th season with the Detroit Lions on Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals.
He may be 31, but he exudes the excitement of a kid about getting the football season going.
The quarterback said some days and some times it does feel like he’s been at it in the NFL for 11 years, but he’s not complaining.
“A lot of memories, a lot of games played, a lot of snaps that I can remember. All of it’s good experience and use it to my advantage as much as I possibly can,’’ Stafford said after Tuesday’s practice. “Every year I’m extremely excited to get out there and go play. We work all year for 16 opportunities that are guaranteed to us to go out there and play, kicking the first one off is a whole lot of fun.’’
Other thoughts from Stafford on the season, his teammates and more:
1. The offensive system has changed with the hiring of coordinator Darrell Bevell, Stafford’s fourth offensive coordinator. “Obviously we’ve been working extremely hard, he’s trying to get to know our players and myself as much as he can, I’m trying to get to know him and his system as best I can and try to make that thing gel as quickly as possible,’’ Stafford said. “It’s always a work in progress, whether it’s Year 1, Day 1 or Year 10, it doesn’t matter. You’re always trying to be better, find ways to be better.’’
2. He has a whole new group of tight ends this season — T.J. Hockenson (6-foot-5), Jesse James (6-foot-7) and Logan Thomas (6-foot-6). The group is definitely an upgrade over last year. “A lot of versatility, I think all of the guys can do a little bit of everything which is fun to have as a quarterback,’’ Stafford said. “All of them are big physical guys, all of them move really well, catch the ball really well (and are solid in) the run game and passing game blocking wise.’’
3. Despite his earlier denials there are still questions about his back and his health. “I feel great, I feel good,’’ Stafford said.
4. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who entered the NFL two years after Stafford, recently announced his retirement due to fatigue from rehabbing from injuries. “It doesn’t change my thought process, I think everybody is in their own different situation. Everybody is their own human being,’’ Stafford said. “I respect the hell out of Andrew. He’s a great player in this league, a warrior out on the football field, a great player when he was healthy and rolling. I’m happy for him if he’s happy. If that’s what makes him happy I’m really happy for him and I wish him the best.’’
5. After 10 seasons, are there still surprises? Yes. “These guys are getting younger every year in this locker room what they do on and off the field surprises me sometimes, I enjoy it man, it’s a really fun part of being around for as long as I’ve been around,’’ Stafford said.