Take any other 23-year-old back home and put him in front of 80,000 fans and you would expect some nerves.
Matthew Stafford is not that kind of individual.
Stafford, who leads his 3-0 Detroit Lions into Cowboys Stadium this Sunday is more than accustomed to playing in front of large crowds. The fact that this is the quarterback’s homecoming only makes the game that much more enjoyable for Stafford.
During a conference call with Dallas reporters this week, Stafford talked excitedly about the opportunity to come back home and play in front of family and friends.
He was injured for the Lions’ visit to Dallas last season so this will be his first time back as a pro.
“When I saw the schedule come out for this year, I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was pumped,” Stafford said. “I was excited to come back to Dallas. Obviously, it was tough missing that game last year, but I think it’s going to be fun to be back home playing.”
Stafford was a high school legend in Dallas playing at the football factory Highland Park and leading them to titles and championships throughout his stay.
He has played in old Texas Stadium before as many as 25,000 and while more than three times that should be on hand to greet him at the new stadium, Stafford is showing no signs of being overwhelmed by the prospect.
“Since I was 14 or 15 years old, I’ve been playing on a big stage in front of a lot of people with a lot of pressure,” Stafford said. “You just understand it.”
With that attitude is it any wonder the Cowboys have spent the week praising Stafford in advance of his return. Even Calvin Johnson is getting some love from the Cowboys with ‘Boys head coach Jason Garrett calling him “arguably the best player in the National Football League.”
To which we say to Garrett, “You doth compliment too much.”
The Cowboys are in for a long afternoon.
SURE TO FIRE ‘EM UP
Jeff Pearlman is no stranger to hostile reactions.
The former Sports Illustrated writer has been on the receiving end of many of those all the way back to an early piece he did on then Braves closer John Rocker.
In his latest biography, Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, Pearlman tackles the life and times of Walter Payton, an excerpt of which appears in the current edition of SI.
The reaction hasn’t all been kind. Pearlman brings to light some aspects of Payton’s life that his adoring public prefer not to know about. Like the fact that at Payton’s Hall of Fame induction, according to Pearlman, Sweetness had his wife in the front row and his girlfriend in the second. Or that later in life Payton abused painkillers and discussed suicide.
The fact that Payton died just over 11 years ago has left many appalled that such scandalous anecdotes have been made public. Many sports fans prefer to remember their heroes for what they did in uniform. Any faults and shortcomings are glossed over or ignored all together. By bringing them to light, Pearlman has opened himself up to the kind of hostility he’s getting now.
In a defence of the book on his own website Pearlman asks, “When is it OK to write about a late person’s shortcomings? When is it OK to look back at his life and analyze the highs and lows; ups and downs? Ever? Never? Maybe — as many detractors clearly feel — we’re better off floating on a cloud of ignorance.”
UNDEFEATED AND UNCLOTHED
The city of Detroit is sounding very serious about cleaning up the tailgating outside Ford Field, specifically getting rid of the Booty Bus that is basically a mobile strip parlour. Ever since a couple of Detroit’s finest were photographed outside the bus with some of the scantily-clothed talent from within, a few noses have been out of joint.
Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo isn’t convinced Tony Romo deserved the outpouring of “Courageous Tony” cries that came in the wake of his game Monday. Orakpo isn’t convinced he played with broken ribs. To me, they (have) blown it way out of proportion,” Orakpo said on ESPN 980, a day after his team lost 18-16. “I mean, they tried to make it seem like the guy was hospitalized the night before the game, just so we could build it up if they was to win the game — oh, he’s a courageous player to go out there and play. The guy was playing just like Tony Romo, running around, making throws. He got hit throughout the whole game and still getting up. I mean, it was blown way out of proportion, but it is what it is.” ... Casey Matthews has gone from starting middle linebacker to weak side linebacker to bench sitter in the course of three games with Philadelphia. The younger brother of Clay Matthews appears to be having problems keeping up with the speed of the NFL game ... Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was named rookie defensive player of the month for his 12 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, forced fumble and an interception. Says here the voters messed up. Denver’s Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick had 12 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles while playing without Elvis Dumervil for most of the first three games, meaning it was up to him to solidify the Denver defence ... The Tampa Bay Bucs, presumably hoping to capitalize on some of that good mojo hanging around the playoff-bound Tampa Rays, moved its practice on Thursday to the Rays’ Tropicana Park.
Receptions are one indicator of how valuable a receiver is to a team, but a better one is the number of times the team targets him — eliminating the poor throw or impressive defensive play from the equation. In that regard, no receiver is valued more by his own team than Wes Welker. Here’s a look at the receivers most often targetted through three games.
NAME TEAM TARGETS
Wes Welker NE 43
Roddy White ATL 34
Jason Witten DAL 32
Andre Johnson HOU 32
Reggie Wayne IND 32
Steve Smith CAR 31
Brandon Marshall MIA 31
Stevie Johnson BUF 30