As the Detroit Lions entered another rebuild in 2021, Matthew Stafford can't be blamed for wanting to be dealt somewhere he could win more immediately as his career winds down. He was allowed to pick his destination, which was of course the Los Angeles Rams.
Now the Lions will have their first home playoff game in 30 years on Sunday night, with Stafford of course returning to Detroit as the opposing quarterback. He has embraced the excitement attached to that for himself, even as the idea of a ban on his Lions' jersey in Detroit or at Ford Field has surfaced over the course of the week. One Detroit-area bar is going to enforce a ban on Stafford jerseys on game day.
Stafford, sheerly based on being an opponent who's task it will be to spoil a potential Lions' playoff run, knows how he will be viewed by Lions' fans.
Matthew Stafford knows he'll be viewed as a villain by Lions fans
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Stafford talked a lot about what the city of Detroit meant to him in his career while reiterating a general notion it's ultimately just another game and how he's excited to "go play anybody, anywhere in the playoffs at this point."
But he knows the role he's playing upon his return to Detroit for a playoff game against the Lions. If his first game back wasn't a playoff game, there would surely be some celebration of his 12 seasons with the team. In this situation, he is ultimately not expecting a warm reception.
"I'm not expecting anything (in terms of a reception), to be honest with you," Stafford said....."I understand what the people of Detroit and the city of Detroit meant to me in my time and my career, what they meant to my family. I hope they feel that back, but at the same time I'm not a stranger to the situation and understanding that I'm the bad guy coming to town. "I’m on the other team and they don’t want success for me."
Stafford is readying himself to be the heel in Detroit, even if a full embrace of that role will be pretty difficult for him.