Schwartz Defends Stafford's Presence

Lions coach Jim Schwartz (getty)

Lions coach Jim Schwartz defended his decision to keep rookie Matthew Stafford (and bum left shoulder) in last Sunday's loss to Cincinnati. But will Stafford return against Baltimore? These questions and more inside ...

Will Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford make another rousing return from a left shoulder injury Sunday at Baltimore? Coach Jim Schwartz said Monday he already had a "pretty good idea," but he was keeping his cards close to the vest for competitive reasons.

Stafford suffered an AC joint separation Nov. 22 against Cleveland, then hopped up and threw the winning touchdown with no time left. He came back four days later and played on Thanksgiving against Green Bay, and he started Sunday at Cincinnati.

But he took another direct hit late in the fourth quarter against the Bengals and left the game. He said he was in pain and needed to think about resting the shoulder.

"That's something that goes into the evaluation," Schwartz said. "It's one thing to talk to the doctors and say, 'OK, where is he with this injury? Is this a situation that can be made worse?' All those different things. It's another thing to see the player's confidence and to see where he is from a pain-management standpoint."

Schwartz said Stafford was sore Monday, but the Lions, while waiting for final test results, didn't think there was more damage.

"(If) he's not 100 percent ... it's better to put somebody else in there," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said he didn't think Stafford's shoulder made him ineffective against the Bengals before the quarterback tweaked it on a play in the third quarter and took a big hit late. Stafford went 11-for-26 for 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The first pick came when a defender deflected an attempted screen pass.

"The interception on the ball that was tipped, I mean, is that an inaccurate pass?" Schwartz said. "He had other balls that were pretty much on the money that through no fault of his own were incomplete. ... I looked at tape very, very hard. I don't see his shoulder, particularly in the first half of that game, being a reason for incompletions and those kind of things."

But does that mean Stafford will start against the Ravens?

"Too early to tell," Schwartz said. "But if he's healthy and he can be effective and there's not a situation that he's going to make it worse, then he's our starter."

Notebook:

  • After quarterback Matthew Stafford aggravated his injury Sunday -- taking a hit from linebacker Dhani Jones and leaving the game -- Fox analyst Brian Billick said: "I question the judgment of him still even being in the game."

    The Lions were trailing by 16 with 3:41 left in the fourth quarter, facing fourth-and-3 at the Cincinnati 28.

    "Everybody's going to have an opinion," coach Jim Schwartz said Monday. "Everybody's going to have judgment on it. The only opinion that matters is ours and what's in this organization. I don't do well with holding a finger up to the wind and seeing which way the wind's blowing. We're not going to ask the audience. It goes back to what we talked about when we were drafting. Polls aren't important. Critics aren't important. It's what we believe and what matters most to us, and I know the situation.

    "I'm there on the sideline with him during the game. I'm very comfortable in our decision to play him and keep him in that game. ... We have a chance to win that game."

  • The Lions allowed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Chad Ochocinco, who caught nine passes for 137 yards. But their cornerbacks also intercepted two passes and forced a fumble on a sack.

    "I thought that other than the one deep ball we gave up, I thought our secondary played very well," Schwartz said. "Those were all plays that stopped drives and kept points off the board. I think our defense allowed one touchdown, which was a big play.

    "That's been a little bit of our problem this year, that one big play. But I thought they were resilient. It wasn't always impressive what we did. A lot of those rushing yards, they were getting 3 and 4 yards. But when it was all said and done, it was points.

    "I'd like to see us be able to keep that big play off the board, maybe hold them to a field goal right there."

Player Notes:

  • QB Matthew Stafford's status is uncertain for Sunday's game at Baltimore because of his left shoulder injury. Coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions don't think he has done more damage. The question is whether he can make it worse and whether he can be effective.
  • QB Daunte Culpepper would start against the Ravens if Matthew Stafford (shoulder) does not, even though he was outwardly upset when the Lions passed him over on Thanksgiving against Green Bay. The coaches let the controversy blow over.
  • P Nick Harris was sore Monday after suffering a left knee injury Sunday at Cincinnati. Coach Jim Schwartz said he was encouraged, but the Lions might look at a punter in case they need to make a move later in the week.
  • CB Will James left Sunday's game with a stinger but should be OK to play against the Ravens.
  • CB Phillip Buchanon recorded his first career sack when he stripped Carson Palmer of the ball Sunday.

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