THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – It comes naturally as a 12-year veteran of the NFL playing one of the league's most communication-heavy positions, but the title of leader – like respect – still must be earned, even on a new team.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has done so in a short amount of time, and effortlessly at that.
"I think one of the unique things about Matthew as you'll get to know when you get to know him is, he's just being himself," Rams head coach Sean McVay said during a video conference Thursday. "I saw (former Lions teammate and current ESPN analyst) Dan Orlovsky had a quote, and I thought it really epitomized what I've gotten to know over the last couple of months, where (Orlovsky said) he's got a great way about when he walks into a room, you know he's the man, but he can also be one of the guys. And he's got a great confidence, but a humility that comes with that. He just has a great feel for people and that's just who he is."
What Orlovsky saw over the three seasons he and Stafford were teammates in Detroit (2014-16), Los Angeles players are witnessing first-hand during organized team activities this spring.
Those workouts at the Rams' facility have afforded them their first chance to get on-field work in with Stafford, as well as develop a rapport with him and get to know him better in a non-virtual setting. Making that connection is a two-way street, but Stafford is doing his part, according to wide receiver Robert Woods.
"Just his attention to listen to receivers, wanting to still get better at his level and at his year (in the NFL) is super big," Woods said during a video conference Tuesday. "I think from a receiver standpoint, your quarterback asking you, 'What do you want from this? Or what do you see in this route?' is super big, because he's coming into our offense with some receivers who made plays, but really just trying to make us feel comfortable in year (13)."
At the same time, Stafford isn't afraid to speak up. Running back Cam Akers said Stafford is a great communicator and leader, and it's not difficult to understand what he's trying to say or what he's trying to accomplish as a result.
"He's very clear-cut," Akers said. "He'll let you know what he wants you to do, or what you're doing wrong or what you're doing right."
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has a unique perspective as a former member of the Chicago Bears who previously played against Stafford in the NFC North division.
What resonated most with Floyd prior to the two of them becoming teammates in Los Angeles wasn't a particular moment in a Bears-Lions game, but rather the widely-viewed NFL Films Mic'd Up clip of Stafford's game-winning heroics against the Browns during his 2009 rookie season while fighting through a shoulder injury.
"That shows me how much of a competitor he is, and I'm looking forward to going out there and doing battle with him this year," Floyd said during a video conference Monday.
Now getting to work with him up close as teammates, Floyd views Stafford as a natural leader and can see the immediate impact of his approach.
"He's just coming in, doing his job," Floyd said. "You can tell guys are buying in to what he's doing already."
Stafford said he just tries to be himself, and the best version of himself, in all situations.
"It takes some time to figure out what makes guys tick, and I just enjoy competing, getting out there with these guys," Stafford said during a video conference Monday. "But the biggest thing is just be myself, let those things happen, and understand that there's been a high standard of success here and really quarterback play, as well, so I've got to come in here in do my part. I think that's biggest thing that people are going to take away from a quote-unquote leadership aspect of things is doing your job to the highest of your ability, as often as you possibly can."
So far, he's off to a good start.
Check out the top shots from practice as The Los Angeles Rams hit the field for OTA #3.