NFL

Lions' Stafford to focus on football during contract talks

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Associated Press
6/11/2013 5:52:25 PM
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford vows to stay focused on football while his agent and the Detroit Lions negotiate a deal that would keep him under contract deep into the decade.

Even if talks break down and Stafford goes into the season with one year left on his contract, he insisted there won't be distractions.

"I don't play this game to get contracts," he said Tuesday. "I play this game to win games."

He didn't do much of that last year.

The Stafford-led Lions lost their last eight games, plummeting to a 4-12 record.

Stafford threw more interceptions and had less than half as many touchdown passes last year as he did in 2011, when he led the Lions to the playoffs. Those facts were pointed out by people trying to figure out what went wrong in what was expected to be a promising season for him and the franchise.

"It's impossible not to hear it just because I watch 'SportsCenter' like everybody else. I'm a person, too," he said. "It's not the main fuel. The main fuel for me is, I want to keep progressing in the right direction. I want to be a great quarterback. I want to be able to help this team win.

"The only way I am going to be able to do that is if I let nothing get in my way and concentrate on what I'm supposed to concentrate on and get better at what I need to get better at."

Stafford struggled to stay healthy in his first two years after Detroit drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009 and gave him $41.7 million in guarantees as part of a six-year contract worth as $78 million.

After playing in just 13 games over two seasons, he flourished in his first full year with 41 TD passes while completing 64 per cent of his attempts and throwing 16 touchdowns.

He stayed on the field last season, but his passing percentage dipped as did his TD passes (20) while he threw one more interception.

"Matt's not happy with last year," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "None of us were happy with last year, but you also can't overreact."

Detroit didn't make drastic moves to invest a lot in a wide receiver to play alongside superstar Calvin Johnson because the team hoped Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles could bounce back from season-ending injuries.

Although the regular season is a few months away, both Burleson and Broyles look like they'll be ready to contribute when the games count. They ran routes, made hard cuts and caught passes in traffic during non-hitting team drills Tuesday.

Burleson was limited to six games last season because he broke his right leg, but shows no signs of being hurt.

"He's ready to go," Stafford said. "He looks great. That's been a big plus, having him healthy going into this off-season helps us keep our stride and going into the right direction."

During last season's slide, Broyles made the most of more opportunities to play -- catching six passes for 126 yards against Houston -- until he tore a ligament in his right knee to end his rookie season that started with him recovering from torn ligament in his left knee.

Stafford acknowledged being surprised to see Broyles lining up and running routes as often as he did during the first of a three-day minicamp.

"I think it was kind of a last-minute decision," Stafford said. "I think he felt pretty good and he made some plays, which is a positive sign for us."

"We saw some of that late in the year before he got hurt. He's a guy who can be a chain-mover and be explosive."

Stafford has spent much of this off-season splitting time between his home in suburban Detroit and team headquarters, after working out and rehabilitating injuries elsewhere in previous years.

He has looked back to analyze the previous season, seeing when it was good to take chances with passes and when it wasn't while the losses piled up after climbing to .500 midway through the season.

"It was a total, learning experience just because it was a tough year," Stafford said. "You have to find a way to battle through it."

NOTES: Lions S Louis Delmas (left knee) was among the players relegated to watching teammates go through drills because of a "longer-term" injury, according to Schwartz. ... Schwartz declined to say much about RB Jahvid Best (concussions) who hasn't played since Oct. 16, 2011. "He's still on our roster," Schwartz said. "He's not here for minicamp." Emails seeking comment were sent to Best and his agent, Tony Fleming.

Matthew Stafford (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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