Twelve years after he was taken with the top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Matthew Stafford finds himself back under the learning tree.
After more than a decade as the face of another franchise, the most prolific passer in Detroit Lions history is tasked with learning about a new franchise, a new offense and new teammates with the Los Angeles Rams.
With organized team activities kicking off, many a veteran is getting back into the familiar swing of things, but Stafford is drinking in a whole new franchise and happy to be back on the practice field learning alongside a cast of fresh-faced teammates.
"The biggest thing at the quarterback position is just being able to get some of these mental reps," Stafford said Monday, via the Associated Press. "Being able to get in and out of the huddle, learning the new terminology, and then see our plays develop versus different defenses. I'm just trying to learn as much as I possibly can, not only about our playbook and how we want to operate, but also to know my teammates as well."
Stafford had been a staple in the Lions starting lineup ever since he was taken No. 1 overall in 2009, but that all changed when he was traded to the Rams.
While head coach Sean McVay and the Rams brass are counting on Stafford to be an upgrade from Jared Goff, who was shipped to the Lions in the swap, Stafford must learn to walk before he can run the L.A. offense.
As Stafford's final offseason in Detroit was marked by altered offseason workouts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he's happy that his first offseason in a new uniform is coming along with a more normal offseason setting.
"Selfishly, I'm liking these times," Stafford said. "It's giving me the chance to be on the field and calling plays and going against our defense a little bit. Just above-the-neck stuff, being able to work the mental aspect of the game. So that part of it has been great for me. ... I feel like everybody is figuring out what works best for them as an organization, and I feel like we've accomplished that."
No stranger to getting to know new head coaches, Stafford is now readying to play for his fourth full-time head coach -- which doesn't include Darrell Bevell, who was the Lions' interim coach last year, or Dan Campbell, who'd taken over as the new Detroit head coach when Stafford was traded. So far, Stafford likes what he sees from McVay.
"I'm constantly learning things about him," Stafford said of McVay. "He's obviously a high-energy guy. He loves the game. The biggest thing for me so far is I've got the same guy every single day. He demands a lot out of everybody, and he knows we demand the same out of each other."
These are just the first few chapters of Stafford's L.A. story, but they're pivotal ones nonetheless.