Allen Park — Matthew Stafford has never felt the same way as Andrew Luck, but the Detroit Lions quarterback respects his longtime counterpart in Indianapolis after he made the difficult decision to abruptly retire at the age of 29 late last month.
"I think everybody’s in their own different situation," Stafford said on Wednesday. "Everybody is their own human being. I respect the hell out of Andrew. He’s a great player in this league, a warrior out on the football field, a great player when he was healthy, and rolling. I’m happy for him if he’s happy. If that’s what makes him happy man, I’m really happy for him. I wish him nothing but the best."
Both Luck and Stafford were No. 1 overall picks in their respective draft classes, Stafford in 2009 and Luck in 2012. Statistically, their careers have been very similar. Both have also dealt with their fair share of injuries.
Stafford missed time his first two seasons with knee and shoulder injuries, and ankle, hand and back injuries have cost him practice time in the years since. Things were even more severe for Luck, who missed half of the 2015 season and all of the 2017 campaign with shoulder issues. He also battled back from an abdominal tear, concussion and lacerated kidney.
This offseason, a mysterious lower leg injury ultimately pushed Luck to his decision.
"I've been stuck in this (rehab) process," Luck said at his retirement press conference. "I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. (It's) taken the joy out of the game, and after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again. I find myself in a similar situation and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle that I’ve been in."
Stafford, 31, who fought through a back injury last season, said he's never reached that point and Luck's decision hasn't impacted his own thought process.
But it's crossed the path of Stafford's wife, Kelly, who shared her thoughts on Instagram last week.
"I have so much respect for Andrew Luck," Kelly Stafford wrote. "People might not understand it, but they don't have to. He didn't take the easy way out, he took the toughest way out.
"Sometimes I wish Matthew would think twice about this game for his health. The difference is though, he LOVES this game. I'm happy for Andrew. I hope he finds the life for something like the love he once had for this game."
Luck's retirement came seven years after he was drafted by the Colts. Stafford is set to begin his 11th season with the Lions this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
"A lot of memories, a lot of games played, a lot of snaps that I can remember," Stafford said. "All of it is good experience, and I use it to my advantage as much as I possibly can. Every year. I’m always still extremely excited to get out there and go play. We work all year for 16 opportunities that are guaranteed to us to go out there and play. Kicking the first one off is a whole lot of fun."
Lions vs. Cardinals
Kickoff: 4:25 Sunday, State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Records: Season opener for both teams
Line: Lions by 2.5