Column: Matthew Stafford slinging passes and title talk — just don’t mention that Instagram photo
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has been busy since he and his teammates lifted the Lombardi trophy as the winners of Super Bowl LVI.
Before the last drops of champagne had dried, Stafford signed a four-year contract extension that includes $120 million guaranteed. He also became the star of a clever AT&T commercial that ends with him offering a wink and a subtle nod toward the 12 years he spent in Detroit before the Rams acquired him from the Lions in January 2021.
He capped his eventful offseason with a surprising debut on Instagram. A photo of him wearing the Rams’ huge and glittery championship ring appeared a few days ago on an account with his name and a blue verification check mark, causing a stir because he had long avoided engaging with social media.
It was a big deal. Almost as big a deal as the fact that on Sunday, the opening day of the Rams’ training camp at UC Irvine, Stafford threw passes for the first time since he received an anti-inflammatory injection in his right arm soon after the Super Bowl.
Rams coach Sean McVay is due a contract extension, but as training camp opens this weekend he’s not worried about a timetable to finish the deal.
He was happier with his throwing than his social media venture.
“Listen, I have no clue. I have no idea,” an embarrassed Stafford said of the Instagram post, which featured the ring but cropped out his wife Kelly. “You can ask me all the football questions you want. Don’t ask me about that.”
As for the football part, he said all went fine Sunday with his arm, which had nagged him during the Rams’ march to the championship. He threw smoothly, surely, regaining his timing and footing and shaking off the rust that had accumulated because he didn’t throw during minicamp or offseason workouts.
His activity was encouraging for teammates as they began what they hope will be another long journey that ends with another diamond-studded, impossible-to-wear championship ring.
“I knew he’d be great,” said defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had hinted at retiring before his contract was restructured in June to make him the highest-paid player who’s not a quarterback in NFL history. “He’s a tough guy. I knew he’d be ready.”
Stafford plunged immediately into the tasks at hand. He reestablished his connections with wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee and began to get a read on wide receiver Allen Robinson, who made a few outstanding sideline grabs and others in traffic, true to his reputation as one of the NFL’s best receivers in contested-catch situations.
Robinson, who signed with the Rams as a free agent, and Kupp give the Rams versatility and quality options. Coach Sean McVay called Robinson “a pro’s pro,” a compliment Stafford seconded.
“Allen’s a really intelligent player,” said Stafford, who saw a lot of Robinson and became a fan while Robinson played for the Chicago Bears and Stafford played for the Lions. “I’ve been really impressed by his ability to not only pick up what we’re doing X’s and Os and lines on a piece of paper, but just kind of the nuanced stuff of what we’re trying to accomplish on each play. When you have guys that can think like that and play like that, it makes my job a lot easier.”
The Rams open training camp as the defending Super Bowl champions, but there are plenty of questions surrounding the team at the start.
Stafford will be on a pitch count throughout camp, as McVay put it, though McVay said that didn’t restrict Stafford from doing anything Sunday. Stafford said there’s a day-to-day plan in place for him to build up his arm strength, but he hopes it’s fluid and acknowledged he might chafe if he feels too limited.
“It’s an interesting thing, trying to have a little bit of governor on there and at the same time, just try and be as smart as I can. It’s a process,” he said. “Gonna have to sit there, work through it, trust it, and we’ll figure it out as we go.”
It was a solid opening day of camp for the Rams, who still have a few things to sort out as camp continues.
McVay said the team didn’t put All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey (shoulder surgery) on the physically unable to perform list because doctors cleared Ramsey to participate in jog-throughs and “above-the-neck stuff.”
McVay added, “To be able to have him out here with his teammates, with all the different things that we ask of him, he felt good about that. We felt good about that.” But McVay said safety Quentin Lake, who was drafted out of UCLA, was put on the PUP list out of caution because of a knee injury.
The lineup will take shape in the coming weeks. The Rams’ approach is already set. Their mantra is they’ve turned the page on their championship season and they’re willing to do what it takes to repeat, difficult as that will be.
“It’s a different team. It’s a different year. Just because we did something last year doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen this year. We’ve got to go out there and earn it,” Stafford said.
“Those opportunities that we got to play in those games last year were earned. You ask yourself what kind of opportunities are you willing to earn? It comes with sacrifice and hard work and being a great teammate, and all that kind of stuff.”
Their journey began on a hot July afternoon. Just don’t rely on Stafford’s social media accounts for updates on how it ends.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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