NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Matthew Stafford has had four months to acclimate himself to the Los Angeles Rams, but the fresh start he has after 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions definitely hit home Sunday.
Instead of reporting to the Lions’ hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, Stafford glanced to his left and saw the Pacific Ocean in the distance as Rams quarterbacks and rookies reported.
“It’s a bunch of new experiences for me — where we’re playing, where I’m living, my teammates and coaching staff,” he said. “It’s definitely invigorating. It’s a challenge for me and something that I’m looking forward to.
“Not many people in my position get the chance to move to teams that have had a bunch of recent success, and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Stafford, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft, spent 12 seasons in Detroit but requested a trade during the offseason after another coaching change. The Rams traded Jared Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round selection to Detroit for Stafford when the new league year began March 18.
Goff led Los Angeles to a Super Bowl spot in 2018 and three playoff berths in five seasons, but the No. 1 overall pick from 2016 struggled the past couple seasons. The Rams were 11-7 and reached the divisional round last season, but coach Sean McVay was critical about Goff’s play during the second half of the year.
Enter Stafford, who is hoping to lead a team to a playoff victory and beyond for the first time in his career. He led the Lions to the postseason three times, only to see them eliminated in the wild card round.
When it comes to his familiarity with the offense, Stafford said he feels comfortable with his progress but knows that he needs to ramp things up leading into the season opener on Sept. 12 against Chicago, including building more of a rapport with McVay.
“I think there’s quite a bit to learn from him and I think he appreciates some of the experiences that I’ve had,” Stafford said.
Stafford did some throwing sessions with his receivers since the end of minicamp six weeks ago and has watched film from offseason workouts. He acknowledged there will be struggles during training camp, but he doesn’t feel like the learning curve is as steep as it would be without having time to work with the offense during the spring.
Stafford isn’t the only major storyline involving the Rams offense when practices begin on Wednesday. Finding a primary running back has also become a priority after Cam Akers tore his Achilles tendon in an offseason training session.
Darrell Henderson has the most experience with Raymond Calais and Xavier Jones also returning. The Rams drafted Jake Funk in the seventh round and also signed undrafted rookie Otis Anderson Jr.
“I think I have a lot of belief and a lot of trust in the guys that we have that we’re going to have a successful running game,” Stafford said. “Really, the biggest gut punch was for the kid. You feel for him more so than I do us as a team.”