It was well documented last year, both in the win column and stat book, just how much the Lions missed quarterback Matthew Stafford after a back injury forced him to miss the final eight games of the regular season. The Lions were 0-8 without Stafford, and their offense went from top five in the NFL to middle of the pack.
Stafford's been healthy now for months, and he's looked terrific in training camp so far. There was one practice in the first week of camp where Stafford didn't throw an incompletion in any team period. He's been that crisp at points during practice. It's something media members have noticed, but coaches and teammates have also been noticing how good Stafford's looked as well.
"Man, he's been awesome," said Lions head coach Matt Patricia. "He's dialed in, locked into the coaching, the teaching, practice, meetings, his leadership has been outstanding. I think he's fired up every day out there, he's competing really hard and wants everything to be perfect, and you love the drive of everything that he does right now.
"It's been great, it's been unbelievable and for me, it's been awesome just to watch him take that upon himself to push the team, and from that aspect of it, I couldn't be more appreciative. It's great."
It's been a difficult 2020 for everyone so far, and that includes the NFL with the offseason having to take place virtually and training camp being limited with no preseason or joint practices allowed. It's one of those situations where it's good to have an 11-year veteran at the helm to help navigate an offense and a team through challenging times.
Stafford demands a lot of the players around him. Teammates who've played with him for a long time, or are getting their first experience of that up close during this training camp, appreciate that the most about him.
"He looks great," veteran receiver Danny Amendola said of Stafford. "Healthy. Arm is live. He's hungry and ready to go. Can't wait to watch him in games. He's the leader of our team. We love playing for him, love playing hard for him. He is a great teammate. We're all excited to watch him get out and play."
Chicago comes to Ford Field in just 15 days for the regular-season opener, and it will be the first game Stafford's played since Nov. 3 of 2019 in Oakland.
Stafford was playing at a Pro Bowl level when he was injured and he's seemingly picked up right where he left off. He's got the advantage of being in a second year of this offense and having a ton of skill-position weapons around him.
The expectation is for this offense to be very good in 2020, and the way Stafford has looked so far in training camp, there's no reason to think that won't be the case.