THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Having spent his first 12 NFL seasons with the Lions, quarterback Matthew Stafford is accustomed to playing on Thanksgiving.
Year 13, though, will be different.
Stafford is 10 games into his first season with the Rams, who are playing on Sunday against the Packers – a departure from the usual Thursday gameday experience this time of year for him and his family.
"Way different for me than normal, but just like the rest of the NFL deals with," Stafford said after Wednesday's practice, when asked what Thursday will be like. "We'll figure out our schedule, go from there. And I'll be able to spend a little bit of time with the family, which is great. We're used to this in the NFL – you play on Christmas, you travel on Christmas, you play on Thanksgiving, travel on whatever it is. We just show up and go to work."
Though Thanksgiving involved work for Stafford, he still enjoyed it, and his family still had a fairly normal experience for the holiday.
"I loved playing on Thanksgiving – for the tradition, for the game, for all of that," Stafford said. "But at the same time, it was really nice because we went Thursday to Thursday one time, which was tough, but for all the other times, I was back at my house at 5, 5:30? Something like that. Being able to have a normal Thanksgiving meal, watch some football with your family, you almost felt like a fan there for a little bit. Had a bunch of family in town. We'd get back to the house and have food and dinner and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun having the next couple of days off. You could eat leftovers and do all of that fun stuff."
Since he's playing on Sunday this year, Stafford will likely be taking a different approach to the following days. He said he's "definitely gonna have to take it easy, which is tough to do."
"But small sacrifices you have to make," Stafford said.
For Stafford's wife, Kelly, and their four young children, it will probably feel a little bit different being at home on Thanksgiving instead of a stadium like in recent years. Stafford said that back then, their kids were too young to know that they were on the field on Thanksgiving in Detroit.
Still, as they gather tomorrow, they will all look back fondly on those memories from the past 12 years while creating new ones.
"(Our kids) didn't know what's going on, but I'm sure they're gonna – I hope they're excited that I'm going to be home," Stafford said with a smile. "I think they will be, Kelly the same. But we did have a lot of time together even on those Thanksgiving games, as I was talking about a little bit earlier, being able to be done early, always home game, always the early game, had plenty of time after that. So, it's gonna be different, but we'll just figure it out as we go."