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Stafford balancing football & family as Lions open OTAs

Kelly Stafford, wife of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, is still recovering after undergoing 12 hours of brain surgery last month to remove a tumor known as acoustic neuroma.

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's open OTA practice in Allen Park, Stafford said football was not on his mind during the surgery and the start of Kelly's recovery.

Kelly has been giving updates on her recovery via her social media accounts over the last few weeks. Stafford praised the support they've received as a family, and applauded the strength of his wife, who is also the mother of their three young daughters.

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I honestly don’t know where to start. This is him, the man God chose to remove my brain tumor. After my diagnosis, Matthew and I visited doctors all over the US. He made it a super easy decision after we met Dr. Thompson @ the U of M hospital. Dr. Thompson not only had done about 2000 acoustic neuroma cases & had published outstanding results when attempting to preserve facial & hearing function w/ the surgery, but....when I spoke w/ him, he reminded me of my dad. He truly cared & was empathetic, which meant so much to me. The 6 hr surgery turned to 8, then 10, then 12 hrs & he was constantly updating Matthew throughout. When he opened me up, he saw an ”anomalous” artery that is normally not there. In his 2000 cases, he had seen it ONE other time. BUT bc it was so rare, he & his team wrote a paper on it for other surgeons. Then, God sent him me & although surprised when he cut in to see the artery, he was confident & prepared. He took his time & was patient. There was a moment when they thought I might have lost my hearing completely. He made everyone & everything stop, they all sat, & waited for some time.. the audio wave returned. His patience saved my hearing, as well as my face. You read right, he PRESERVED MY HEARING! Matthew said when Dr. Thompson came up to give him the run down, he was excited for how well it went & that it was a total “team victory” for which they hugged it out for a while. He kept giving credit to his team which included, Dr. Telian (ENT), Dr. Joseph (neuro chief resident) Dr. Welch (ENT Fellow) & Jane (Dr. Thompson’s NP). This team is my dream team.. like the ‘92 bulls with DR. Thompson as my MJ & Dr. Telian, my Scottie pippen.. MVP’s of their craft. After the surgery, Dr. Thompson visited every day. When I ended up back in the hospital, he drove an hour from Ann Arbor to the hospital where I was to physically put eyes on me & make sure I was ok. His NP said he is like that for all his patients.. I mean how amazing is that? I will forever be in debt to this man & his team. I can’t express how grateful I am for him.. his kindness, empathy, patience, knowledge, & steady hands. Thank u Dr. Thompson, thank u so much to u & your team.

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The events have put life and football in a bit of perspective for the veteran quarterback.

"She's tough," Stafford said. "She's doing a heck of a job. It's a lot to go through for anybody, especially a mother of three and a wife to somebody that has a high-profile job like myself. She's doing a heck of a job keeping it all together."

The support from family, friends and the Lions organization has allowed Stafford to be in Allen Park as much as he feels necessary to try and fulfill the obligations he's made to the Lions as their franchise quarterback. That's obviously a tricky balance with so much going on off the field.

Stafford's first priority was making sure his wife and family were going to be okay, but he said it was Kelly that encouraged him to get back to work.

"She was telling me to get the heck out of the house and go take care of what I needed to take care of," Stafford said.

A big part of that has been learning a new offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell. Stafford felt a responsibility as the quarterback to get ahead of the learning curve, so he can answer all the questions his teammates on offense have for him on the field. He's essentially the coach in the huddle.

"Matt Stafford is an unbelievable guy," head coach Matt Patricia said Tuesday. "This is a guy that's come to work every single day and has done everything he can to help this team ... trying to deal with life outside the building.

"He's done an amazing job of that. Couldn't be more blessed and more happy to have a guy like that. His desire to be in this building and handle everything he has to handle off the field, but come in here every day ready to work, I mean, that's just a true professional."

In that regard, Stafford said the ownership, front office and coaching staff have been great being very flexible with him. He's worked on some off hours so he could take care of his obligations both at home and in Allen Park.

"I've got an obligation to this team that I love fulfilling," Stafford said. "I want to be here. We've got a new offense. I'm having a blast trying to learn it and teach these guys as well. But at the same time, I have a lot going on at home."

Stafford admitted it was tough at first to get himself back into football.

"Somedays Kelly had a good night, somedays I was here loving it," he said. "Kelly had a bad night and I was trying to get home as fast as I can. It's been up and down, just as we kind of expected it to be."

Stafford said at times he's welcomed the distraction of everything that comes with trying to learn a new offense, and says he's right where he should be in terms of how far along he is in picking it up.

There have been some long days and some tough times for the Stafford family over the last month. Both Matthew and Kelly have expressed gratitude for the amount of support they've received from all involved.

"I think when I'm here, I'm here," Stafford said balancing family and football. "There's maybe sometimes before practice in the locker room or something I'm just checking in and making sure things are okay, but when I'm out here I've got to be locked in. If I'm out here thinking about something else, it's going to be an ugly day for the offense. I'm trying to do everything I can to be locked in.

"Having a new playbook to learn is helping. It's not old hat. It's a bunch of new stuff. It's stuff I really have to dive deep into and make sure I'm on top of my game. Not to say I'm forgetting everything that's going on back at home, but I for sure am locked in when I'm here."

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