Over the weekend, Lions president Tom Lewand said the team was working on a new contract for quarterback Matthew Stafford, hoping to get one done before the start of the season.
But after regressing last year, and watching the team fall to 4-12, Stafford said he wanted his focus to be on playing better.
“I don’t play this game to get contracts,” Stafford said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I play this game to win games and that’s the way I’ve always felt about it. Whether it gets done or it doesn’t, there would be no distractions.”
Last year there were plenty, as his numbers reflected the team’s own tailspin.
He went from 41 touchdowns and a 97.2 rating for a 10-win team to 20 touchdowns and a 79.8 rating for a four-win team.
That made the negativity hard to miss.
“It’s impossible not to hear it just because I watch SportsCenter like everybody else and I’m a person, too, but it’s not the main fuel” Stafford said. “The main fuel for me is I want to keep progressing in the right direction, I want to be a great quarterback and I want to be able to help this team win, and the only way I’m going to be able to do that is if I let nothing get in my way and just concentrate on what I’m supposed to concentrate on and get better at what I need to get better at.”
That kind of attitude is why the Lions are willing to hitch their financial futures to him.
“He’s evolved into a leader,” Lewand said. “Now when rookies walk into the locker room they see a quarterback who’s been here four years and they see a different guy who occupies a different spot on the team and a lot of that is because of his own efforts.
“I don’t think we have a guy on our roster who’s worked harder than he has, and I’m not sure that you’ll find a guy who cares more than he does about this team and about winning, and about his teammates.”
That’s why they want to reward him, but Stafford wants to make sure he’s earning it, first.