THOUSAND OAKS — The night after Matthew Stafford made his sensational debut with the Rams on Sunday, he went to the ballpark to watch boyhood friend Clayton Kershaw make his return from an elbow injury in the heat of a Dodgers pennant race.
“It was cool to go see Clayton do his thing,” Stafford said as the Rams began preparing for this Sunday’s road game against the Indianapolis Colts. “I know he’s been battling some stuff to get back out there and play. Proud of him. He played great.”
Kershaw didn’t go to SoFi Stadium for Stafford’s game, needing to rest for his first pitching assignment in two months, but told Dodgers writers he’d been excited to watch the Rams beat the Chicago Bears, 34-14, on TV.
“He played awesome,” Kershaw said of Stafford, who caught him in travel baseball before they got to Highland Park High in the Dallas area and Stafford moved to shortstop (oh, and quarterback). “It’s always fun to have someone to cheer for in another sport, and Matthew is that guy for me. Now that we’re both in L.A., it’s full circle and it’s pretty cool.”
For Stafford, watching the three-time Cy Young Award winner pitching for the 2020 World Series champion Dodgers might also be a reminder of the difference in sports culture he faces in moving from Detroit to Los Angeles.
In Detroit, the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings have great history, but none of them has advanced past round one of the playoffs in the last seven years. The Lions themselves haven’t won a playoff game in 30 years. Since Stafford was drafted No. 1 overall in 2009, none of the four teams won a championship.
Right now, Detroit teams aren’t expected to win.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers, Lakers and Kings have combined to win six titles over the same 12 years. The Rams are contenders to reach their second Super Bowl in four seasons. After the Dodgers and Lakers won the World Series and NBA titles in 2020, then-Rams quarterback Jared Goff said: “Now it’s our turn.”
Right now, and always, L.A. teams are expected to win.
Kershaw could tell him about the scrutiny a star faces if he falls short.
No problem, Stafford said Wednesday.
“I mean, we were trying to win ’em too when I was in Detroit,” Stafford said with a smile. “The Tigers were pretty damn good when I first got there. The Red Wings were pretty good. Pistons were rebuilding a little bit.
“It’s no different to me,” Stafford said of L.A. expectations. “I’m just trying to go out there and execute as best I can.”
The way for Rams players to handle high expectations, he said, is to do their job consistently.
“I’m going to try to do that week in and week out, day in and day out,” Stafford said.
He did more than that Sunday, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors by passing for 321 yards, touchdowns covering 67, 56 and 2 yards, and no interceptions.
Coach Sean McVay talks about dealing with other people’s high expectations by following an “inside-out” rather than “outside-in” narrative.
“You understand that there are external expectations and things like that, but that shouldn’t affect our ability to approach the way we prepare (during the week) to try to play to the best of our abilities on Sunday,” McVay said.
He said Stafford has the character to do that.
Which didn’t stop him from getting outside football on a Monday night off to watch baseball, and probably picture himself on the Dodger Stadium infield.
“Growing up, I would have told you that’s what I was going to do,” Stafford said. “But football happened to be something I was a little bit better at.”
What he couldn’t picture was Kershaw making it as an NFL quarterback.
“I don’t know,” Stafford said. “He throws a baseball better than he threw a football.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth will donate $20,000 after each home game this season to repair hurricane damage to homes in his home state of Louisiana and help Los Angeles residents facing housing insecurity, the team announced. It’s called the “Big Whit Homes for LA Families” program. … Nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) was held out of the week’s first practice Wednesday. The injury report listed Whitworth, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and outside linebacker Terrell Lewis as taking the day off for “rest,” although Donald took part in individual drills. …
The Rams (1-0) are four-point favorites over the Colts (0-1). The line moved up from three after the Rams’ rout of the Bears and the Colts’ 28-16 loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 games. … McVay said rookie wide receiver Tutu Atwell will be the Rams’ punt returner. Atwell’s debut in that role would have come on a Bears punt from midfield, but veteran wide receiver Cooper Kupp was sent in to make a fair catch at the 11-yard line. “It was a safe situation (to use Kupp),” McVay said of the Bears’ only punt. “There wasn’t a return possibility for us there.”
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 14, 2021