Lions (Officially) Welcome Back Stafford

Lions QB Matthew Stafford (AP Photo)

In Detroit, of all places, the silver lining has replaced the cumbersome plot: 1-5 has nothing on Matthew Stafford.

Any other year, any other team, and this bye week would be a transitory break from misery.

But in Detroit, of all places, one particular silver lining has replaced the cumbersome plot entirely: 1-5 has nothing on Matthew Stafford.

The Lions welcomed back their second-year quarterback on Wednesday to his first official practice since injuring his throwing shoulder in a week one loss at Chicago. Without his top receiving targets (Detroit kept Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson sidelined, mainly for precautionary reasons), Stafford took the field and threw the entire day.

The former No. 1 pick, and Detroit football's latest Great Hope, Stafford participated in 7-on-7 drills, avoided a routine pass rush, and slung the ball to teammates.

The result drew grins from everyone in attendance.

"I feel pretty good, yeah. I feel pretty close," said Stafford, who is expected to start the team's next contest, a Halloween-tilt against Washington at Ford Field. "I don't know if it's 100 or 98 or 99 (percent), but its right up there. I feel good."

Said running back Jahvid Best, "I think we're going to have a little bit of a boost just seeing him back in the huddle.

"We're glad to have Matt back. I saw him throw a deep one and that was pretty cool."

Known for his special, speedy delivery, Stafford was confident that his powerful release hasn't been affected by the injury.

"It wasn't a rotator (cuff) or a labrum or something like that," he said. "It had really nothing to do with the mechanics of throwing the ball."

Lions coach Jim Schwartz was pleased with his quarterback's official return, although Stafford has been throwing on a lighter schedule for the past two weeks.

"It was good work for him," Schwartz said. "I think the whole thing there is that he has to adjust to coverage; he's not just throwing routes on air. He's doing things where he has to move in the pocket, he has to escape.

"His timing has to be good for getting rid of the ball. I think it was a big step."

Schwartz added that Stafford's participation in practice would no longer be limited, a sensible move since his practice and chemistry with the offense has been on hiatus for over a month.

Stafford is expected to collect repetitions with the No. 1 offense through Friday, and beginning again next week when the team returns to Allen Park on Tuesday.

The Lions will need all of Stafford if they hope to squeeze anything positive from the remainder of their campaign. Oddly, they don't seem that far from success. In his absence, Detroit dropped five of its first six games, but demonstrated a resolve in each contest. They have lost only by an average of just six points in each, but that includes a 14-point loss at Minnesota.

In their last home game, the Lions drubbed St. Louis, 44-6.

Stafford's return coincides with the loss of back-up Shaun Hill (broken arm), who was measured and composed as the team's relief pitcher. But Stafford's moxie, leadership, and big play ability appeared to be sorely missed -- intangibles that his very tangible right arm is finally ready to return.

"Hopefully the way I can do that is (for us) to come out and get a couple wins here in the second-half of this season," Stafford said. "We've been playing really well. Shaun has been doing a great job and hopefully I can give us a little extra boost and get us over that hump a little bit."

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