Matthew Stafford on getting rest days: 'I'm not 21'

Matthew Stafford practiced and played through a back injury last season. During training camp, the Detroit Lions have been more selective with how much they've had the 31-year-old quarterback throw.

Stafford had a six-day throwing break after getting last weekend off and not participating in the Lions preseason game a week ago. The hope is that the planned break for the veteran's cannon should pay dividends when the games actually matter.

"I'm not 21 anymore, so it's probably pretty good to, if you can find a place in the schedule where you think you can get some rest and just kind of feel fresh again, might as well," Stafford said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Stafford didn't look right down the stretch last season while playing through the back injury. His near week break set off questions of whether he suffered a setback. Stafford, however, insisted Wednesday that he feels fine physically, and the break was simply planned maintenance.

"It's not easy for me but it's probably good for me in the long run," Stafford said. "So something that Coach (Matt) Patricia and I had talked about and probably the right thing to do. But it was good, gave me a little bit of perspective, let me coach the guys a little bit more on the sideline. But yeah, it's not easy as a competitor to sit out, but it's probably the smart thing to do."

Stafford participated in the Lions' joint practices with the Houston Texans this week and is expected to play about a quarter in Saturday's preseason tilt.

At 31, the 11-year pro isn't near Tom Brady-old, but he's no spring chicken either. Coming off a season in which Stafford threw for just 3,777 yards -- his lowest since 2010 when he played just three games due to a shoulder injury -- battling the back issue and losing key receivers to injury and trade, giving the veteran a few days off is smart planning. There is plenty of time left for chemistry building with his wideouts before Week 1, and just because he isn't throwing in practice doesn't mean he's not getting mental reps in Darrell Bevell's new offense.

Stafford enters a big year coming off arguably his worst season as a pro. With the Lions expected to employ a run-heavy approach under Bevell, Stafford might not need to carry the load as he did for years, but he's still Detroit's most important player. Giving him a few days off in early August is shrewd if it keeps the signal-caller fresh down the line.