He addressed that report in an interview with Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press that ran Sunday. His version of his no-trade list tells a slightly different story.
Stafford declined to directly address if he made a specific request to avoid the Patriots. But he did clarify that he asked to be traded to a team that's built to contend for a championship — and that there were multiple teams that weren't on his list.
"What's accurate is — and this is an incredible thing by [the Lions] — I asked to go to a team that was ready to win a championship," Stafford said. "And, you know, there were a few teams on that list. There were a few teams that were not on that list. And they were respectful of that and understood completely. I had thoughts and reasons for each one of them."
Report: Stafford wanted to go 'anywhere but New England'
While Stafford avoided directly addressing the report about the Patriots, his answer doesn't quite jibe with what Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston reported on Jan. 31.
"Stafford told the Lions they could send him anywhere but New England," Curran wrote. "This comes from a source whose team was heavily involved in Stafford trade negotiations but failed to land him."
Did Stafford want to avoid Matt Patricia?
Curran's report lent credence to the belief that Stafford wanted nothing to do with recently fired Lions coach Matt Patricia, a Bill Belichick disciple who rejoined the Patriots staff after his exit from Detroit. The Lions went 13-29-1 under Patricia, who reportedly frequently clashed with players. Former Lions players openly rejoiced when the franchise fired Patricia in November.
That Stafford would want to avoid rejoining Patricia's orbit at all costs is entirely plausible. But Stafford's an NFL quarterback. And NFL quarterbacks are notoriously reticent to step into any territory that might be considered controversial. His comments on Patricia to Albom were wholly diplomatic.
"He and I had a good relationship, no matter what anybody wants to say," Stafford said of Patricia. "I could go into his office and talk to him, he could get me on the phone whenever he needed to. I think we both grew in that relationship. I have a lot of respect for him and who he is, as a football coach and an unbelievable mind."
So Stafford's not here to openly torch bridges. But if he wanted to deny that he expressed a specific desire to the Lions to avoid the Patriots in a trade, he could have done so with Albom. And he didn't.
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