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Rookie QB Stafford 'overanxious,' coach says, in first Lions practice

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford looked spectacular at times Friday, fitting spirals in tight places and delivering pinpoint passes downfield.

It was easy to see why the Detroit Lions took him No. 1 overall in last weekend's NFL draft.

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The Detroit Lions
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However, the strong-armed quarterback occasionally looked like a rookie who's trying to impress his bosses in his first Lions minicamp practice. He sailed some passes over receivers' heads and could have been picked off more than once.

The true test, of course, will come in about four months, when Stafford might be the starting quarterback for the NFL's first team coming off an 0-16 season.

For now, Stafford is just trying to learn as much as he can about a new offense and league after a whirlwind couple of weeks.

"It was good to play football again. Golly, it's been a while," Stafford said. "It's just good to run around with the guys and be part of a team again."

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Stafford was "overanxious" in his first day on the practice field with the team.

"It's Matthew and probably 90 percent of the guys out here, when you go through a first practice as, you're so anxious to get going and you're out of control," Schwartz said. "Later in practice, you start settling down.

"We saw that with Matthew, chomping at the bit early and wild with some throws. Then, he started settling into a groove and working together with the receivers."

Stafford was joined on the first day of a three-day minicamp by fellow first-round pick Brandon Pettigrew, the rest of Detroit's selections from last weekend and undrafted prospects such as D.J. Boldin and Gerald Riggs Jr.

Boldin's older brother is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and Riggs' father, Gerald Sr., played in the NFL for a decade with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.

But without a doubt, most of the eyes were locked on Stafford during the practice.

Lions owner William Clay Ford watched the workout, clearly interested in seeing the player he's giving $41.7 million in guarantees and as much as $78 million as part of a six-year contract.

Ford leaned against a railing on the balcony overlooking the practice field to check out his investment.

"No, I did not see that," Stafford said. "I was just focusing on trying not to screw up out there."

Ford was flanked by team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew, both of whom are leading the franchise in the post-Matt Millen era. Millen was fired as team president three games into the season with a 31-84 record over seven-plus years.

The Lions and their fans are desperately hoping Stafford can do what Joey Harrington, Andre Ware, Chuck Long and many others couldn't for a team with only one Pro Bowl quarterback and one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

"Lord knows we need a franchise quarterback," former Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown said while watching Stafford throw.

Stafford looked the part of star quarterback, sporting a No. 9 red jersey, silver helmet, shorts, socks, cleats and a strong arm.

When Stafford made a mistake, he responded well. He threw one pass high and wide of a receiver, then connected with former Georgia teammate Sean Bailey between the "8" and the "3" on his jersey on the next attempt.

Bailey later had one of Stafford's spirals hit him on his helmet.

"That's what you get for not turning your head around in time," Bailey said.

Stafford's right arm and cool demeanor served him well as a star quarterback for Georgia and Highland Park High School in Texas. He'll need those assets and much more to succeed on the field and deal with the scrutiny he'll face off it.

In Michigan, the No. 1 quarterback for the Lions and the top goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings are traditionally in the spotlight more than any other athletes in the sports-crazed state. A reporter asked Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood what advice he had for Stafford.

"Don't listen to you guys," Osgood told reporters one day before facing the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Schwartz said he doesn't need to tell Stafford anything about dealing with outside pressure.

"He's done a great job with it his whole life," Schwartz said. "There's no sense in me trying to change that."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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