As the Lions convene in Allen Park for spring workouts, Matthew Stafford thinks familiarity gives them an edge heading into the 2012 season.
Before full-team practices begin, players will participate in strength and conditioning drills for the next two weeks.
Still in the public's mind are the recent legal run-ins of Mikel Leshoure, Johnny Culbreath and Nick Fairley. Stafford said the situation was addressed by Lions management, but the players involved did not address the team.
"Obviously we're a mature team," said Stafford. "Some of the guys who were having trouble off the field were younger guys, but they're figure it out and we'll be there to help them out."
Stafford is riding high after a season in which he threw for more than 5,000 yards and led the Lions to their first playoff berth since 1999. He also started all 16 games, after missing time in both of his first two seasons with an assortment of injuries.
Asked if it was nice to start a year not having to answer questions about injuries and durability, Stafford responded, "It's great... except for you just asked me one."
The boyish charm is still there, but the competitive fire continues to burn brightly.
"You got something to build off of," he said when talking about the 2011 season. "You got something you can try and improve on. That's exciting for us. That's a challenge, but something that I think we'll be happy to embrace.
"Any time you get a taste of the playoffs, you understand how close you are and how bad you want to win the whole deal. Obviously only one team at the end of the year wins it all. Every team, this day of the year, is talking about the same thing, and that's getting to be that team. We have steps that we have to take to get there.
"That's the exciting part. That's the fun part - trying to do everything you can to prepare yourself to get there."
Stafford excelled under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who enters his fourth season with Detroit. The coaching continuity gives the Lions an edge in Stafford's view.
"We're building, we're not starting from scratch," he said. "We have the same offensive and defensive coordinator for the last three years, the special teams is very similar for the last couple of years, so guys are mentally not straining to try and figure out the playbook or try and figure out where they're supposed to be on certain plays.
"This is fine tuning and adding to what we've already done."
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