Stafford Never Seriously Considered Opting Out: 'I Want To Play Football'

Throughout this strange NFL offseason, Matthew Stafford has said he's eager to get back on the field. He missed the final eight games of last season and now he misses football. So it never really crossed his mind, even in the wake of a positive test for COVID-19, to sit the season out. 

"I think, like everybody, you hear it and you talk with your spouse and your family about it. I never gave it serious thought," Stafford said on a Zoom call with local media Tuesday. "I want to play football. I want to be out there. I have a supporting wife and family that know I love doing what I do and know it’s important to me, so they were right on board there with me." 

It was a false-positive, in the end. But when he first got the results, Stafford admits he was a little concerned. He and his wife Kelly have four young daughters, including a newborn who came home in July.  

"There was no doubt there was some fear, as I think everybody would have if they got a positive test, and just knowing how much I've been around my family and my kids. That’s a little bit of a scary thing," Stafford said. "When everybody got tested and it all panned itself out, obviously you feel a whole lot better about it. Just happy that at this point everybody in my family and myself are negative and healthy."

In the days after Stafford's positive test was made public, Kelly said their family endured a 'nightmare.' She said they became targets in their own community, like when their daughters were 'harassed and kicked off a playground.' She slammed the NFL for releasing Stafford's test results without knowing for sure whether they were conclusive. 

Stafford said Tuesday it was "tough for me knowing what (Kelly and the kids) were going through."

"Having to talk to her about how her days were and trying to deal with getting the kids back in school, there were just quite a few things that had to happen," he said. "But at the same time, it’s not lost on me that there are plenty of people that are having a much harder time than we did. Ours lasted a few days and got corrected, and I know the league is going to do everything they can to correct that.

"At the same time, there are plenty of people out there in hospitals that are really fighting for their life, and that’s not lost on me or my family. We know that this virus is affecting a lot of people in much worse ways than it did us. Just hoping that our situation can be a little bit of a learning situation for the league and teams and players, and I think it has been." 

Indeed, shortly after Stafford's false positive, the NFL adjusted its COVID-19 protocol. A player who tests positive and is asymptomatic no longer has to wait at least five days to return to the field. He can be activated with two negative nasal tests the following day. This will guard against the possibility of a player having to miss a game this season for a false-positive. 

Stafford's relieved his situation occurred when it did, and that it helped tighten the league's protocol. 

"I’m glad that it happened to me at this point, and the league is trying to do what they can to make sure this doesn’t happen again," he said. "But I’m sure there’s going to be another problem down the road that we’re going to have to figure out when we get there. This is how this has been for the last six months. We’ve all been living it, whether we’re a league trying to test thousands of players or just trying to go out and get our groceries.

"So we understand that things are going to change and we’re going to have to adapt. But I’m glad it got settled, glad that it’s over with. I’m just happy to be in the building, hanging with the guys, getting a little bit of normalcy back when it comes to football." 

That building, right now, is just about the safest place he can be. 

"The amount of protocol for us to go through daily just to get in here is pretty impressive," Stafford said. "Makes you feel good when you’re a player. You come in here, you feel really safe. Everybody here is taking as much precaution as they possibly can, taking it extremely serious.

"I’ve been around here for 12 years. It’s totally different than I’ve ever seen it and it’s as safe as it’s ever been. I know as players we really appreciate it. It’s not lost on us the amount of dollars and effort that went into making the facility look and operate the way that it does right now. I know a ton of people had extremely busy offseasons building this place out and figuring out the dynamics of trying to social distance while playing a team sport. So I’m extremely appreciative of the amount of work that went into giving us this chance to go out there and play."