An NFL Without Fans? Stafford Wouldn't Mind It: 'Quiet's Great'

Of course, he'd prefer packed stadiums this fall.

Will Burchfield
May 14, 2020 - 7:56 pm
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Matthew Stafford smiled when the topic came up, mainly because it's such a strange thing to envision. An NFL game without fans? 

"It would be an adjustment for everybody," said Stafford. "There’s no question."

If the season starts on time -- if it starts at all -- the stands will likely be empty. They'll surely be empty at Ford Field. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer said this week the state won't be 'filling stadiums' this fall as it tries to recover from the coronavirus. Even a few months from now, large gatherings will be too risky. 

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The Lions are scheduled to open the season at home, Sep. 13 against the Bears. There will be no wall of noise when they take the field, no clapping of thunder sticks on third down, no high-fiving hullabaloo when they reach the end zone. There will be the voices of the players and the whistles of the officials, in an empty cave built for 65,000 people.

It's downright eerie to think about. 

For Stafford, it's sort of appealing.

"I’m quarterback, quiet’s great," he said. "I love that. I can talk (to the offense), I can hear what they’re saying on defense. I can probably try to use that to my advantage. It’s like playing a home game everywhere you go, I’m fine with that."

But he's well aware it would be hard on everyone else. 

"For those guys that are really running around all day, receivers, defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, those guys feed so much off of adrenaline from the crowd," Stafford said. "You don’t have time, you don’t have the awareness to think, I’m tired or I’m dragging a little bit. You don’t have the ability to focus your thoughts on that.

"Without the fans, I think that would be a different challenge for those guys." 

Here's a linebacker to weigh in. 

"It’ll be totally different with no fans," said Jarrad Davis. "I think the fan experience is expected across the board, no matter where you go. Having fans in the stands definitely creates an electric environment, and it’s one of those things that helps brings the best out of players.

"As professional athletes, we practice a lot, we do a lot of work. And when you get into those heightened, tough environments, those crunch-time places in games, the best comes out of you every time."

It's something Danny Amendola mentioned to Stafford when the two got together for a recent throwing session. The energy from the fans is fuel for the players. If there isn't any crowd noise, what's the next best thing? 

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"When Danny was in town we were talking about it. He was like, 'Maybe they need to play music or something,'" Stafford said. "It’s like going for a long run with no music. It’s just different and something that those guys have become so accustomed to, feeding off that energy."

Loud stadiums or quiet, one thing's for sure. The players are itching to return. Stafford said he "built a little gym" in the garage of his home in Atlanta, and he's been been throwing with a couple teammates in the area, including second-round pick D'Andre Swift, at a field down the street. 

"If they told us we had to start the season tomorrow and fly to Detroit and put the pads on, I’d be thrilled and happy to go do it," Stafford said. "Just any opportunity at any time, with it being safe, I’m ready to go." 

Davis, while echoing Stafford, also said he has "mixed emotions" about the season being in limbo due to the ongoing quarantine. 

"I respect it. There are people out there who are definitely struggling with this virus, and there are people who are struggling with being in lockdown. It’s putting a lot of stress and strain in people throughout Detroit and across America," Davis said. "But you have to be safe, so there’s mixed emotions both ways.

"I respect the illness itself. It’s something that’s very, very dangerous to a lot of people, and something that is dangerous to the livelihoods of a lot of people. So it just goes both ways. I think that’s where the mixed emotions are. Fans or no fans, I’m excited to play football. That’s my biggest take on it."