June 4, 2009 at 9:27 pm

John Niyo

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been quick learner

No. 1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford has impressed his Lions teammates with his unassuming demeanor. (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News)

It's a question of when, not if, Matthew Stafford will be the Lions' starting quarterback.

And while it's a bit early to handicap the "arms race" -- that's how coach Jim Schwartz termed the looming competition between Stafford and veteran Daunte Culpepper this week -- it's never too early to take a guess at how things will shake out in September. Culpepper's the starter Sept. 13 in New Orleans. But check back in August, because Stafford is ahead of the learning curve.

"We wanted to go in (to offseason workouts) saying, 'OK, look, let's not judge too quickly,' " Schwartz said. "But at some point we're going to have to really turn the microscope on and start evaluating every little thing and I think (mini-camp) is a good time."

The Lions, who have a final mandatory minicamp June 23-25 and then begin training camp at the end of July, insist they won't rush their No. 1 overall pick. But Stafford's already heeding the advice of last year's rookie of the year, Matt Ryan, by burying his head in the playbook and impressing teammates with his unassuming demeanor.

"The biggest thing is you have to earn the respect of the guys in the locker room," Ryan told ESPN Radio this week. "Doing that's not gonna be easy, and there's a lot of different things and a lot of different ways to go about doing that. So for me, I felt like that was the most important thing, and I felt like in order to do that I needed to work really hard, know what I was doing in terms of the playbook and ultimately go out there and produce. If those guys can do that I think it'll go a long way."

Ryan, for what it's worth, only had to beat out Chris Redman and Joey Harrington for the Falcons' No. 1 job last summer. A new coaching staff made it official before the final exhibition.

NBC's lineup

While an NFL Network job reportedly remains a possibility for former Lions president and recent ESPN hire Matt Millen -- and wouldn't that be great to see him reunited with Steve Mariucci ? -- the new NBC broadcast team is taking shape.

Cris Collinsworth is John Madden 's successor in the Sunday night booth, while former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Patriots safety Rodney Harrison are replacing Collinsworth and Jerome Bettis in the studio.

Labor chatter

The posturing began months ago, but Wednesday, the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith , officially kicked off negotiations with the league on a new collective bargaining agreement.

There are myriad issues, but the crux of what figures to be a long, contentious fight is the owners' desire to limit the players' share of league revenues.

In the meantime, owners are busy exploring new revenue streams. They voted this month to allow licensing deals with state-sponsored lotteries, something many teams, including the Lions, are expected to do. And some will have a new look when they begin camp after owners approved the use of corporate sponsor logos on practice jerseys.

By the numbers 25,000

In square feet, the- size of the four-sided, 72-foot-high video board at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium.

1,200,000

In pounds, the weight of the video board, including 10 levels of catwalks.

$40M

Cost of the video board in $1.1 billion stadium set to open Saturday with country music concert.

NFL calendar

Aug. 9: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, Canton, Ohio.

Aug. 13-17: First exhibition games.

Aug. 15: Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons, 4 p.m. Ford Field

Sept. 1: Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players.

Sept. 5: Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players.

Sept. 10: Season opener.

Sept. 13: Lions' opener: at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.

Sept. 20: Lions' home opener: vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. Ford Field

Nov. 26: Thanksgiving Day: vs. Green Bay Packers, 12:30 p.m. Ford Field

Quarterback scramble

The Lions aren't the only team with a quarterback duel looming in August. Here's a look at other competitions for opening-day starting jobs:

Team Contenders Who'll win
Cleveland Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson Quinn
San Francisco Shaun Hill, Alex Smith Hill
Denver Kyle Orton, Chris Simms Orton
N.Y. Jets Kellen Clemens, Mark Sanchez Sanchez
Tampa Bay Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich Leftwich
Oakland JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia Russell
Minnesota Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels Brett Favre

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