Lions QB Matthew Stafford set for strong 2nd year

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ALLEN PARK, MICH. (AP) - The Detroit Lions will need a lot of help to fix their franchise after winning only one playoff game in more than a half-century and becoming the NFL’s first 0-16 team two years ago.

Matthew Stafford seems to give them a chance and he’s not worried about the pressure that comes with being the source of hope.

“I put more pressure on myself than anyone,” Stafford said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “If I miss a ball by a little, it’s unacceptable to me.”

Stafford was a little high and slightly low on consecutive passes during the morning practice, leading to him flailing his arms and muttering to himself.

“I want to be as perfect as I can,” he said.

As a leader, he just might be.

Stafford has the requisite arm an NFL QB needs, along with the personality. The easygoing Texan has a ton of confidence and he naturally attracts athletes ready to follow him.

He slaps more hands and helmets than anyone on the practice field. On the sideline, he can easily transition from talking about routes and footwork with receivers to shooting the breeze about vacationing.

Stafford and some teammates went to the Masters earlier this year and he’s convinced bonding away from the field can help win games.

“It’s huge,” he said. “We have a bunch of guys pulling for each other and we all understand it’s going to take all of us to turn this around.”

A lot of it, though, will depend on Stafford’s right arm and the split-second decisions he makes between his ears.

Stafford showed signs of promise last season, especially when he threw a fifth touchdown to beat Cleveland after getting knocked out of the game, but he threw 20 interceptions to trail only Chicago’s Jay Cutler.

“I can’t turn the ball over so much because that killed us last year,” Stafford said. “I need to be more judicious with the ball.”

Knee and shoulder injuries limited him to 10 games, hurting a team that won just twice. He said experiencing setbacks as a rookie will make him stronger as a second-year pro because none of them broke him physically or mentally.

Stafford is sure he will be better this year in part because his surrounding cast has improved. Detroit drafted speedy running back Jahvid Best in the first round, signed veteran receiver Nate Burleson and acquired tight end Tony Scheffler along with guard Rob Sims in trades to fill holes on offense.

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