Drew Stanton will start at quarterback Sunday, but the focus never strays far from Matthew Stafford. He threw the ball Wednesday for the first time since his second right shoulder injury. He made 14 tosses of 10 yards each before practice.
Afterward, he said, "It didn't feel terrible."
If he follows the same path he did after he first hurt the shoulder in Week 1, he will throw more Thursday and Friday, be the third quarterback Sunday and then return to practice on the following Wednesday.
But it doesn't seem as if that's going to happen. He wouldn't commit to throwing again Thursday.
"We'll see," Stafford said. "Coach just said he wanted me to throw a couple to see how it felt, and I just went out and did it. I did the best I could."
The best-case scenario seems to be that Stafford gets back on the field for the final two games, at Miami and then the season-ender against Minnesota at home. The question remains, is getting him back for those games worth the risk of him taking another hit and doing further damage to his seemingly fragile right shoulder?
"What's gained is the chance to win the game," coach Jim Schwartz said. "That's everything we get paid for. Everything we do all year is to play 16 games. That's No. 1. No. 2 is, if a player is healthy enough to play, then you play. You don't keep anything in the can. You don't save anything for next year."
That said, Schwartz isn't going to take any unnecessary risks.
"If a player is at risk or he can't do his job on Sunday, then you might make that decision (to shut him down)," Schwartz said. "He needs to pass those tests before he comes back. Is this something that could be made worse? Will he be able to do his job? All those things will need to be answered before he can step back on the field."
Game Week Notebook:
- QB Shaun Hill (finger) still has not thrown a football. The Lions only have two healthy quarterbacks, Drew Stanton and Zac Robinson.
- CB Brandon McDonald is likely to fill in for injured starter Alphonso Smith (shoulder), who was placed on injured reserve.
"I am preparing myself to be out there," said McDonald, who came to the Lions from Arizona in Week 7. "You can always learn more stuff, but I know the defense. I'm pretty tuned in. I've been in the league four years, so I am pretty well-rounded with this stuff."
McDonald has been the nickel back the last three games.
- RB Jahvid Best (toes) did not practice Wednesday. If he sticks to his normal routine, he will practice Thursday but not Friday.
- SS John Wendling, the gunner on the team's coverage units, leads the NFL with 20 special teams tackles.
- P Nick Harris is on pace to stick at least 20 punts inside the 20-yard line for the fourth straight season. He presently has 18. He has pinned the fourth-most punts inside the 20 since 2004.
- LB Isaiah Ekejiuba, a special teams captain, did not practice Wednesday because of a lingering knee injury.
- GAME PLAN: The Lions have yet to figure out how to stop Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. In five previous starts, all wins, he's completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,523 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating against the Lions is 105.3. He's also the Packers' second-leading rusher. With Kyle Vanden Bosch out, and with a new, untested starter at one cornerback spot (Brandon McDonald), a rookie still learning the ropes at strong safety (Amari Spievey) and a linebacker corps that has been exploited all season, the odds are long against Detroit figuring Rodgers out this week.
Somehow, some way, the Lions have to make the Packers one-dimensional, and that's something very few teams have been able to do this season.
- MATCHUPS TO WATCH: WR Calvin Johnson vs. CB Charles Woodson. Woodson is a proven Lion-killer. In Week 4, he had a pick-six (he's had a pick-six in three straight seasons against the Lions). He also had 13 tackles, and he made three straight huge plays that effectively killed the Lions' last scoring drive in a two-point game. He injured his ankle in practice Wednesday, though the severity of it wasn't immediately known.
Lions tight ends vs. OLB Clay Matthews. The Lions were able to keep him off of Shaun Hill in Week 4, but Matthews has been a terror on opposing quarterbacks. He has 11.5 sacks this season, second in the league. His presence forced the Lions to beef up their protection packages, so expect to see a lot of TE Will Heller on the edge Sunday.
- INJURY IMPACT: The Lions will start their third cornerback opposite Chris Houston on Sunday. Jonathan Wade started, was released and replaced by Alphonso Smith, who is now gone after shoulder surgery. Now, most likely, it will be Brandon McDonald's turn. It's not an ideal situation, to be sure, but the 2-10 Lions are in a position where they need to find out who can help them next year. Smith, despite back-to-back bad games, had passed his audition. He's in the mix for 2011. Now they get to get extended looks on McDonald and Tye Hill (whom they signed last week) and Prince Miller (whom they added this week). Interestingly, Houston, who has been rock solid, has not been offered a contract extension. So these will be an important final four weeks in terms of evaluating the players.