Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford knows the New Orleans Saints are coming to get him in the season opener Sunday. But he doesn't seem afraid, and if the coaches didn't think he was up to the challenge, they wouldn't have named him the starter.
The Saints seem to be licking their chops, judging by some comments in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Defensive end Jeff Charleston called Stafford "fresh meat." Defensive end Bobby McCray said it would be "very important that we break his spirit early."
Stafford chuckled at that.
"I'm sure I'll get that probably all year, so I might as well get used to it," Stafford said. "Football is football. That's going to happen. People are going to talk. So that's fine. It makes it fun."
McCray told the Times-Picayune he was sure the Lions wouldn't give Stafford "too much to handle in his first game."
Stafford essentially shrugged. He said he didn't think the Lions had limited the playbook for him.
"I feel like we're going into the game with a lot of stuff - a lot of plays, a lot of formations, checks," Stafford said. "I'm prepared for that."
Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Stafford had "made significant strides in his grasp of the offense in a short period of time," from his first practice of rookie minicamp through the exhibition finale. He said Stafford also was consistent in practice, not up one day and down the next like a lot of rookies.
Quarterbacks are taught not to throw certain passes against certain coverages. Linehan said Stafford doesn't screw that up.
"You don't get that from him," Linehan said. "He knows the design of the play. Based on coverage, he knows where the ball should go. He knows those things. Is he perfect yet? No. Has he made a few mistakes along the way? Yeah. But every quarterback has."
Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove said he preferred playing a rookie than a veteran like Daunte Culpepper, because "with a rookie you can do some different things to try to get him rattled and get him looking at the rush, instead of looking downfield."
Asked about the Saints trying to rattle him or break his spirit, Stafford said: "Well, I figure that's probably every defense's philosophy is to try to do that - push the pocket and try to make the quarterback feel uncomfortable. That's the defense's job. It's my job to hang in there and make some throws down the field."
- G Stephen Peterman did not practice Thursday because of an undisclosed injury and is likely to sit against New Orleans on Sunday. Reserve guard Manny Ramirez will fill that void.
Schwartz wasn't concerned that the injury would affect the line's chemistry.
"Everything that we did as we went through training camp, was to mix and match our groups the best we could with stuff like this in mind," he said. "If you do have a situation where you have an injury and somebody has to play that it's not new to them being in and playing with a different group of guys. We rolled a lot of different positions, including the offensive line, so it was planned for many months ago.
Ramirez has been good enough to push starting left guard Daniel Loper for playing time.
- K Jason Hanson looked good booting field goals again Thursday. It remains unclear whether Hanson will also handle kickoffs Sunday, but it appears more likely he will. The Lions have yet to sign another kicker.
- DT Grady Jackson did not practice Thursday but did return on Friday for light workouts.