During the time the first coronavirus cases were reported in the United States, through the initial weeks of its spread across the country, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and family were enjoying a normal, relaxing offseason.
Matthew, his wife Kelly and their three daughters spent a few weeks in California, including a trip to Disneyland, before jetting to Florida for a couple weeks on the Gulf Coast with extended family.
But as the severity of the virus quickly came into focus, the Stafford family returned to their offseason home in Georgia, where they've largely been locked down ever since.
"I don't even know how long it's been, to be honest with you," Matthew said during a video conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. "I've got to hand it to Kelly. Three little kids running around and she's carrying a fourth, it's pretty impressive she has the energy and the stamina that she does. I'm trying to help out as much as I can. It's as much dad time as I've ever had and it's been awesome.
"But it's difficult," Matthew continued. "It's difficult on everybody, especially with her situation, being pregnant and really — it's the right thing to do — we haven't been out. We don't go out. We don't go to the grocery store. We try to get all that delivered if we possibly can and limit our contact with other people. We've just been trying to stay really safe and keep the kids busy any way we possibly can."
In early March, Kelly announced the couple was expecting a fourth child this summer. That comes a little more than a year after she underwent successful brain surgery to remove a non-cancerous tumor known as an acoustic neuroma.
Given the amount we still don't know about how COVID-19 affects the human body, Matthew hasn't wanted to take any more risks than necessary.
"There's not hard data on this yet, what it does to a pregnant woman, a baby," Matthew said. "We're just trying to make sure we're doing everything we possibly can to limit our exposure and making sure we're at home, doing everything the experts are telling us to do, as much as we possibly can, while trying to stay sane and still have a little bit of fun here and there."
But while doing everything he can to protect his family, Stafford also is finding windows of time to work on being a better quarterback. In California, he worked out with teammates Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay. Amendola also came to Atlanta for a few days. Additionally, Stafford has connected with two of the team's rookies, running back D'Andre Swift and receiver Quintez Cephus, for throwing sessions.
"Just trying to make sure we're limiting the amount of people that are there," Stafford said. "Obviously, it's only the guy throwing and the guys catching. Trying to do that. Trying to make sure, I'm honestly making a conscious effort to try not to lick my fingers before I get the ball, throw it. All those are kinds of things I never thought I'd have to think about. At the moment, I am. Just trying to make sure we limit our contact."
As for the 2020 season, Stafford can't predict what will happen, but he's hopeful. He said the back injury that sidelined him the final eight games of the 2019 campaign has fully healed and it feels as good as it has at any point in the past couple of years.
"I'm hoping everything goes as safe and as smooth as it can this offseason and we're allowed back in at some point, as long as that's safe," he said. "It's a tough situation, as everybody knows, to make the call on when, where and how we do this thing. But I'm hopeful we can get it going because I've put in a lot of work to be where I am and other guys on our team are doing the same."
Stafford sees some similarities to the 2011 lockout season and believes there will be value in having a roster loaded with intrinsically motivated individuals eager to hitting the ground running.
As for the virtual offseason workouts and meetings the team is currently conducting, it's been challenging for the quarterback.
"I would rather be in-person, I'd rather be in Detroit, if we could be, talking about this stuff and then going out and working on it," Stafford said. "The biggest difference right now is we're all talking about it, and then we hang up the Zoom call and I go chase three kids and, you know, Danny goes and does yoga in his underwear or whatever, and Kenny's catching balls from a JUGS. I don't know what these guys are doing, but we're not working on the same stuff at the same time. It's a little bit challenging in that aspect, but I'm just trying to be available for guys as much as I possibly can, to make sure they know I'm there."
And even at the point players can return to their facilities, there will remain a lingering and real possibility games could be played in front of significantly reduced crowds or even no fans at all.
Silence is bliss at the quarterback position, but Stafford worries about how the absence of the crowd noise could impact some of his teammates.
"When Danny was in town, we talked about it," Stafford said. "He was just like, 'Maybe they need to play music or something.' It's like going for a long run with no music. It's just different, and something those guys become so accustomed to — feeding off that energy. It would definitely feel different, I would think."
Whatever the reality ends up being, Stafford will be ready to play at the drop of a hat.
"I think they're going to pick a schedule and go, 'Hey, this is when you get to be back and this is when we're starting, so saddle up.' And that's fine," he said. "That's fine with me. If they told us we had to start the season tomorrow and had to fly to Detroit and go put the pads on, I'd be thrilled and happy to go do it. So just the opportunity at any time, with it being safe, I'm ready to go."