Matthew Stafford: False-positive COVID-19 result was 'a little bit of a scary thing'

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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019 at Ford Field. - Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press/Detroit Free Press/TNS

DETROIT — All things considered, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford seems to be taking his COVID-19 testing fiasco in stride. This despite the family-related concerns the positive test led to for Stafford and the residual consternation it caused for his wife, Kelly.

A little more than a week ago, the Lions had to place Stafford on the COVID-19 reserve list when his third test after reporting for training camp came back positive. Four days later, Stafford was activated off the list and the Lions sent out a press release emphatically stating the quarterback had a false-positive and was never positive for the virus.

That led to the league changing some of its virus protocols to accommodate for the possibilities of false positives, which should hypothetically reduce the risk of those players unnecessarily missing games once the season gets underway.

“Yeah, I mean this is just totally unknown times for all of us,” Stafford said during a Tuesday video conference with reporters. “The league, players, coaches, the organization as a whole, everything is new and it’s unknown. I know everybody is doing the best that they possibly can. I’m glad it happened to me at this point and that the league is doing what they can to try and change and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“I’m sure there’s going to be another problem down the road at some point that we’re going to have to figure out when we get there. That’s the way this has been for the last six months. We’ve all been living it, whether we’re a league trying to test thousands of players or just trying to go out and get our groceries. We understand things are going to change and we’re going to have to adapt. I’m glad it got settled. I’m glad it’s over with and I’m just happy to be in the building, hanging with the guys, getting a little bit of normalcy back when it comes to football.”

In the moment, Stafford acknowledged there was some fear and uncertainty when he received the news he’d tested positive. While he wasn’t showing any symptoms, he knew as a potentially asymptomatic carrier he could have exposed his family — Kelly, who underwent brain surgery to remove a non-cancerous tumor last year, as well as the couple’s four young children.

“I had no reason to not believe the results or whatever, except for the fact that I was feeling fine,” Stafford said. “Yeah, there was no doubt there was some fear that I think everybody would have if they got a test that came back positive. And just knowing how much I’m around and had been around my family and kids, that was a little bit of a scary thing.”

After the family was tested, the faulty result was confirmed. Stafford is thrilled his family is healthy and safe, but acknowledges the experience was difficult for all of them, especially Kelly.

“Probably tougher for them than it was for me, but it was also just tough for me knowing what they’re going through,” he said. “I’m just having to talk to her about how her days were and trying to deal with getting the kids back, all that kind of stuff, getting the kids back in school.

“There were just quite a few things that had to happen, but at the same time, it’s not lost on me that there are plenty of people that are having a much harder time than we did. Ours was a few days that lasted and got corrected. I know the league is going to do everything they can to correct that. At the same time, there are plenty of people walking out there — or not walking that are in hospitals that are really fighting for their life. That’s not lost on me or my family. We know this disease or virus is affecting a lot of people in much worse ways than it did us. Just hoping that our situation can be a little bit of a learning situation for the league and teams and players.”

Still, despite the scare, Stafford said he never considered taking up the collectively-bargained offer to opt out of the 2020 season.

“I think like everybody, you hear it and you talk with your spouse and family about it,” he said. “I never gave it serious thought. I want to play football. I want to be out here. I have a supportive wife and family that know I love doing what I do and know it’s important to me. So, they were right on board there with me.”

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