He'll Be Back, But When?

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will play again this season. But no one knows when. News, notes, and quotes inside ...

Amid the hangover following Sunday's rather tumultous loss at Chicago, there was a potential silver lining in coach Jim Schwartz's media briefing on Monday.

The second-year head coach danced around Calvin Johnson's negated, game-winning touchdown grab, an episode the team would rather forget about completely, but did share a somewhat hopeful outlook on quarterback Matthew Stafford's injury prognosis.

The best news? He won't require surgery.

"Matt's very sore today," said Schwartz, "We've had some good returns from his test that it doesn't look like surgery is going to be needed, but how much time he misses is still going to be up in the air and we'll probably know a little bit more on Wednesday."

It's difficult to assess any timetable on Stafford, especially given the fact that he's too sore to provide adequate mobility tests to the team's staff.

An ESPN television "scroll" suggested he could miss 4-8 weeks, along with a visit to league injury specialist (and surgeon) Dr. James Andrews. Schwartz and Stafford have since rebuffed the report, which as of Tuesday afternoon was removed from the ESPN ticker.

In fact, on Free Press columnist Mitch Albom's radio program Monday, Stafford didn't even absolve the chance of playing Sunday's home opener against Philadelphia.

The truth is likely somewhat in between.

"He's still dealing with soreness and some swelling, so it's nothing you can put a timetable on," Schwartz said. "It's nothing you can say that this is a one-week, two-week or 12-week thing. You just have to see how it progresses."

Said Stafford, "We will just have to see. It adds a different aspect to it, obviously, being that it's the arm I throw with. I just have to see what it takes to heal it up."

Given the fact he won't require surgery, and Schwartz's confidence in back-up Shaun Hill, it would be a long-shot to see Stafford return in the next week or even in the immediate future.

The Lions have back-to-back road contests at defensive-minded Minnesota and Green Bay following the home opener, and if Stafford isn't 100-percent by that time, it might be counterproductive to force him into the line-up with an ailing throwing arm.

On October 10, Week 5 of the NFL campaign, the Lions will host St. Louis. And perhaps set-up the most ideal return for the second-year starting quarterback.

"When he's healthy and he's feeling good, he will be back on the field," Schwartz said. "We don't want to push him back and we're not going to put him out there if he's not able to make all the throws he needs to make or if he's protecting it to where he's not able to take a hit. All of that goes into our consideration."

NOTEBOOK:

  • The injury news wasn't as hopeful for rookie cornerback Aaron Berry. The undrafted prospect gathered an interception against Chicago, but dealt with shoulder issues throughout the game. An MRI revealed that Berry had reaggravated a previous injury, and will require season-ending surgery. The Lions signed veteran and former Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher to replace him. Vasher, 29, was considered a key free-agent acquisition by San Diego, but failed to earn the job in training camp.
  • LT Jeff Backus, who was matched up on Bears RDE Julius Peppers Sunday, was beaten cleanly by Peppers on the play that injured Stafford. It was the only tackle Peppers had all day, and Backus felt horrible about it. "It's your worst nightmare as an offensive lineman," said Backus. "You don't ever want to get your quarterback hurt. It's our job to keep him upright and I didn't do that today."
  • Stafford sent Backus a text message Sunday night. "I knew people were going to be talking about him and that play for a while and I told him I wouldn't rather have any other left tackle in the league," Stafford said on a local radio show. "The guy does great work for us. He's a true professional and I just wanted to let him know I appreciated him. The fact I got hurt had nothing to do with him. It didn't happen on the initial hit. It was a freaky thing where Peppers put me right on my right shoulder while holding my right arm down after he stripped (the ball)."
  • As for the overturned go-ahead touchdown reception by Calvin Johnson that would have put the Lions ahead with 24 seconds left Sunday, Schwartz again on Monday refused to criticize the call or the rule that was upheld. "The spirit of the rule is, if someone goes to the ground he has to come up with the ball," he said. "You can parse the rule any way you want. I am not going to parse the rule book. My job is to be the head coach of the Lions, not to make rules or to officiate games."
  • QB Shaun Hill will start at quarterback if injured Matthew Stafford is unable. The Lions signed Hill to a one-year deal over the summer and then gave him a two-year extension; obviously, they think they can survive a few weeks with him running the offense. "He is just a football-playing dude," Schwartz said, adding that the Lions wouldn't have to drastically alter their offensive game plans to accommodate him.
  • DE Cliff Avril not only injured his knee in the first half Sunday, but he also broke his pinky in three places. The finger won't keep him out of the lineup, but the knee might. His status won't be revealed until later in the week.
  • RB Jahvid Best struggled in his debut (20 yards in 14 carries) but he earned praised from coach Jim Schwartz, both for his two touchdown runs and his gutsy blitz pick-up on Bears MLB Brian Urlacher on the controversial non-catch by Calvin Johnson. "Best got blasted but he got up underneath and gave Shaun Hill enough time to deliver the ball," Schwartz said. "It didn't look good for him but he made the play."

TheSportsXchange helped contribute to this report

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