Matthew Stafford’s Thanksgiving memories include Dallas, Megatron, sore shoulders

Updated: November 21, 2017

4:04 PM ET

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — No matter what happens Thursday, Matthew Stafford will head home after the Thanksgiving game against the Minnesota Vikings and do what he typically does.

He’ll gather with friends and family who have come to town for the game, eat dinner and hang out. Whether he’s smiling or not will depend on what occurs earlier that day, whether his Detroit Lions beat the Vikings and move within one game of the division lead or lose to Minnesota, putting the team in a precarious playoff position.

His head coach at the time, Jim Schwartz, had even said that Monday if his pain continued, he was “unlikely to play on Thursday,” but he didn’t rule it out. Stafford ended up playing. He struggled that day, 20 of 43 passing for 213 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions in a 34-12 loss to the Packers, but playing on Thanksgiving after growing up watching games for years in Dallas meant a lot.

“Man, I was beat up and all that, but playing in my first one was really cool, you know,” Stafford said. “Hurt my shoulder three days before and tried to go out there and gut it out and play the next game. I didn’t play great. We didn’t play great and got beat, but playing in the first one was pretty cool.”

Watching football on Thanksgiving was a longtime tradition for Stafford because he grew up in the other city that has traditionally had a Thanksgiving home game — Dallas. The Cowboys are likely the only team Stafford would be unable to play on Thanksgiving unless something changed — a game that Stafford told ESPN would “be a fun one.”

whom Stafford passed in career yardage against the Bears on Sunday. Aikman and Stafford will be at Ford Field on Thursday, when Aikman calls the game Stafford is playing in for FOX.

Until he got to Detroit, though, Aikman and the Cowboys was Thanksgiving for Stafford.

“Kid growing up, man, I just feel like I was probably in my Troy Aikman replica uniform eating turkey, throwing the ball around in the backyard at halftime,” Stafford said. “And running back in to watch the second half of the game.

“I just remember doing that every year. Loving every minute of it.”

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