NFL Football

Matthew Stafford content to stick around for Rams' remodel

(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)


AP Sports Writer

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Matthew Stafford asked to leave Detroit only two years ago. After 12 seasons with no playoff victories, the star quarterback decided he couldn't stick around while the Lions went through another franchise rebuild.

Stafford had none of those concerns Monday when he went back to work with the Los Angeles Rams, who are not calling their offseason a rebuild even though their roster has been decimated by free agency and cap-motivatedplayer departures.

His Super Bowl ring and his $160 million contract over the next four seasons aren't the only reasons the 35-year-old Stafford is content to stick with the Rams' remodeling project.

“I love being here,” Stafford said before the start of the Rams' offseason program. “I really love playing with the guys that we have in this locker room. Obviously there's going to be some new faces. There's some great teammates of mine that are no longer going to be teammates of mine ... but I love coming to work here. I love working with our coaches. That made that decision easy for me, and I didn't feel like it was the same kind of level (as the rebuild in Detroit), and that's yet to be seen.”

Although the Rams went 5-12 last season, it's true they aren't rebuilding from nothing - not with Stafford, Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp on their roster.

Yet Los Angeles is clearly undergoing a major franchise reset just over one year after its championship, losing most of its key defensive players and adding nothing yet to Stafford's offense.

“I've been a part of all sorts of offseasons,” Stafford said. “This time of year, there can be a lot of noise and a lot of people writing about a lot of things ... But for me, it's just, ‘OK, who do we have in the building? Let’s go to work with those guys. Let's enjoy it.'”

Stafford expressed no concern that the Rams have done nothing in free agency to improve the shaky, injury-plagued offensive line that played in front of him last season following the retirement of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and the free-agent departure of Austin Corbett.

Los Angeles appears to be running it back in 2023 with the same offensive line that allowed Stafford to be sacked 29 times in nine games last season, leaving the quarterback with an apparent concussion and a bruised spinal cord that ended his season in Week 11.

In fact, the new line could be worse: starting left guard David Edwards left for Buffalo as a free agent, and the Rams have signed nobody to replace him.

But Stafford said last year's swirling retirement talk didn’t come from him, because he was “really confident I was coming back. I feel like more people were less confident of that than I was, but I was ready to go, ready to play as soon as I was cleared. I feel great, feel healthy. I'm not 25, but I definitely feel good."

Stafford is focused on sharpening his skills and staying healthy during the offseason. After not throwing passes at all last spring because of an elbow injury, he already has been throwing to receivers before the Rams' organized team activities and minicamp.

“Going to do everything I can to be as healthy as I can at all times,” Stafford said. “Probably not the human JUGS machine like I used to be, but I can still get it out there and throw it around a bunch. ... I feel like I can go out there and do everything I want to do, which is exciting for me.”

Stafford realizes the Rams' overhaul might not be finished: Receiver Allen Robinson's future is unclear after the team gave him permission to seek a trade. If Robinson stays, Stafford hopes they can build the connection that seemed to be missing last season.

“You want to use this time to build your team, what you want to be about as individuals,” Stafford said. “Obviously we know we're going to have a bunch of new teammates coming through the draft, but it's about building that foundation, and it starts today.”


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Updated April 17, 2023

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