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Matthew Stafford: 'I'm the Bad Guy Coming to Town'

Matthew Stafford is not expecting anything in return to Detroit.

It's "homecoming weekend" for L.A. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. He returns to Detroit Sunday to face the Lions in a primetime playoff game, the very first postseason tilt in the history of Ford Field. 

As the regular season wound down, speculation ran rampant that the Lions would square off with Stafford and Los Angeles to open up the playoffs. Even as all that talk circulated on social media and on radio and TV airwaves, the former Detroit franchise passer remained focused on getting his team into the postseason. 

"I was locked in on trying to do what I had to do to kind of help us get to where we wanted to be. Like you said, when we did clinch, there was a lot up in the air, both what we could control and what we couldn't control," Stafford told reporters Wednesday. "So, there's no reason to let your mind go there. Treat it like every other week. Right. And you figure out who your opponent is going to be, and then you go prepare and try to play as good as you possibly can to help your team win."

Stafford played his first 12 seasons in Detroit, and quickly endeared himself to the city and its fanbase. Yet, as he approaches his first game at Ford Field since being traded to the Rams in 2021, he has low expectations for how the fans are going to embrace him.

"I'm not expecting anything, to be honest with you. I was asked this question a couple of times, just by friends and family. And, I think the biggest thing for me is just go experience whatever that experience is going to be. I understand what the people of Detroit and what the city of Detroit meant to me in my time there, and my career, what they meant to my family," said Stafford. "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," Stafford commented further. "I'm on the other team, and they don't want success for me. So, whatever happens, happens. I'm going to go experience it. Play the game once the ball is snapped, man. Let's go. Let's go. Two good football teams. Go compete and see what happens."

What playoff game means for Detroit 

Stafford certainly understands what the significance is of the Lions having the opportunity of playing a playoff game in front of the home fans.

Despite attempts to bring the organization a winner, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick fell short for over a decade. 

"It's an amazing city. It's an amazing group of fans. The organization does a heck of a job, and I know that they're going to be excited. I mean, it's going to be a great atmosphere, probably one of the best we've played in a long time," said Stafford. "It's a group of people that, from my experience, love the Lions. Wanted what was best for them." 

The Rams certainly understand what the atmosphere will be like in a venue that is known for being a challenge for road teams. 

"They're playing really good football. They had the opportunity to host a playoff game. They've earned that opportunity. It's going to be a cool experience for those people," said Stafford. "And really everybody involved in the game, it'll be a tough place to play. It'll be loud. It'll be really tough for us to communicate as an offense. And, we understand that, but those are the kind of fun experiences you want as a player in the NFL. And, I'm sure Sunday will be that way."

Fans wanted Stafford jersey banned from Ford Field

All week, fans have debated just how much loyalty should be shown to the former Lions starting quarterback. 

Local Detroit bars are publicly stating that fans wearing Stafford jersesys will not be permitted inside their establishments.  

For Stafford, the outside noise will not impact his preparation or how he will handle his pregame routines. 

"I don't pay attention to any of that, to be honest with you. I'm not looking into the stands. I'll find my family, give them a wave," the one-time Detroit signal-caller stated. "But, other than that, I imagine there's going to be a lot of bodies in there. What they're wearing, I don't know. But, I bet they'll be having fun." 

Having to go to opposing locker room for first time 

For the first time in his 15-year NFL career, Stafford must prepare in the visitor's locker room at Ford Field. 

While he has memories of the layout, he is excited for the opportunity to return and play a meaningful game in January that will garner a significant amount of attention. 

"I hope I don't end up in the wrong one, but I do know it's the same tunnel. Both home team and visiting team come out of the same tunnel. I think we have a little side alley we got to take. At least that's what it used to be," Stafford commented. "But, no, it'll be a fun experience, like I said. There's a lot leading up to it, obviously. I understand all that, but once the ball is snapped, man, let's go play football. A ton of respect for who they are as a team and what they've built over the last few years. It'll be a big challenge for us."