MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: Stafford settles in to new offense

Posted Apr 24, 2014

Jim Caldwell liked what he had seen and heard about Matthew Stafford when he was hired as head coach of the Lions, and his opinion hasn’t changed after the last three days of minicamp practices.

Jim Caldwell liked what he had seen and heard about Matthew Stafford when he was hired as head coach of the Lions, and his opinion hasn’t changed after the last three days of minicamp practices.

Stafford has made an impression with more than his well known arm strength.

“Having the chance to see him work was great,” Caldwell said at the end of minicamp Thursday. “He’s a talented guy. You guys have probably seen him a lot more than I have, but he has just an incredible way about him, too.

“You can see his teammates kind of gravitate toward him. He’s a very good leader, and he works at it. I mean, anything that you tell him, you talk to him about, he’s listening intently and he’s working at it.

“With all the weapons that we have in place, we’ve just got to make certain that we keep things moving in the right direction.”

For all the players, the minicamp practices are a welcome change from the offseason workout routine. The Lions spent the previous two weeks doing conditioning drills, with some work on the field without the supervision of coaches.

There is a big difference between minicamp practice and training camp, let alone playing in the regular season. For one thing, Calvin Johnson was present but did not take part in any drills this week. The minicamp practices were without pads or contact, but the offense running plays against the defense provided competition.

“It’s been fun,” Stafford said. “Any time you get to get back out on the field, it’s a blast. We obviously have a bunch of new stuff to learn -- just trying to put in some of the basics of offense, defense, special teams at this point, new teammates to learn, but it’s fun.

“We do this because we love to play football and not run and lift weights and all that, you know? It’s about playing football and playing the game. We got a chance to do that this week, and it was a lot of fun.”

There is a lot to learn under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and the Lions are just beginning that phase. There is a learning curve for all players, but a lot of the burden falls on the quarterback. Stafford accepts being the leader and trigger man.

“As far as plays go, a lot of teams have very similar plays, but it’s dramatically different in terms of verbiage . . . scheme,” Stafford said. “It’s quite a bit different, but it’s fun learning something new. It’s a challenge for everybody in our locker room to learn it.

“As much as I can, I try to learn what everybody’s doing at this point and help them out if they have questions – breaking the huddle, or whatever it is.

“Guys are doing a great job. They’re taking responsibility. They have to own this offense, and they’re doing a good job of starting that. By now means are we anywhere close to owning the whole thing. We’re just installing little tidbits of base stuff, but guys are working and trying to put their best foot forward.”