Timing worse than injury with Stanton

When the Lions signed wide receiver Calvin Johnson, there was some celebration in Detroit. But there was also consternation, because to make room for Johnson on the roster, the Lions put rookie quarterback Drew Stanton on injured reserve.

When the Lions signed wide receiver Calvin Johnson, there was some celebration in Detroit. But there was also consternation, because to make room for Johnson on the roster, the Lions put rookie quarterback Drew Stanton on injured reserve.

It wasn't just that the Lions had to put their second draft pick on the shelf to make way for their first. It was that fans had followed Stanton from high school through college -- from a suburban Detroit high school to Michigan State -- and knew he had blown out his right knee on punt coverage in 2003.

Why did the Spartans put him on special teams? Did the Lions do their homework on the knee? What did this mean for the future?

But it all isn't as bad as it sounds. The injury isn't serious. Stanton wasn't supposed to play this year, anyway. And this gives the Lions some roster flexibility.

Stanton felt something in his right knee while dropping back to pass Saturday, during the Lions' third day of practices at training camp. The knee swelled up that night. He had an MRI on Sunday and surgery to clean up some cartilage Tuesday morning.

The Lions say the injury is unrelated to the one Stanton suffered in 2003. Stanton said the knee had not been a nagging problem and this injury was surprising. All of his ligaments are in good shape.

The timing was worse than the injury. It meant Stanton would miss training camp, a critical time in his development. Even if Stanton is ready physically for the regular season -- or early in the regular season -- he won't have had the practice he would need to be ready to play.

Stanton, a second-round draft pick this year, was expected to be the third quarterback this season so he could sit back and develop. The battle for the backup job is still between Dan Orlovsky, a 2005 fifth-round pick, and J.T. O'Sullivan, a journeyman who has been impressive so far in training camp.

Now the Lions can keep Orlovsky and O'Sullivan both on the roster. Or, they could use only two roster spots on quarterbacks and still have essentially the same depth chart they would have had all along -- Jon Kitna, the backup, then Stanton.

Stanton can't practice with the team while on injured reserve under NFL rules, but he probably wouldn't have gotten many reps late in the preseason and during the regular season, anyway. When teams prepare for games, the starter gets the bulk of the work, the backup gets a little and the No. 3 gets next to nothing. Stanton can still rehab, work out and attend meetings at team headquarters.

"Hopefully it's going to help me in the long run and benefit me down the road," Stanton said. "The only thing bad about it is, I'm not going to be able to practice and take the reps. As far as the mental part, I can still learn a lot this year and understand the offense and what's going on."

CAMP CALENDAR: Aug. 19, camp breaks.

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