Matthew Stafford is ailing, and the Detroit Lions have no plans to shut him down

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

Even with their playoff hopes dashed, the Detroit Lions have no plans to shut down ailing quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Interim coach Darrell Bevell said Tuesday he will allow Stafford to play the final two games of the regular season so long as Stafford wants to remain on the field.

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“Obviously, to make it clear, we’re not going to put him in a situation where he can have a long-standing injury from this or repercussions from it,” Bevell said. “But if the guy wants to go out there and compete with his teammates and be there for them, then I love him for it.”

Stafford suffered a painful rib injury in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ Dec. 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers that kept him out of practice most of last week.

He started Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, which knocked the Lions out of playoff contention, but left in the fourth quarter after taking vicious hits on consecutive plays.

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Bevell said at the time that Stafford did not suffer further injury but “I just didn’t want to put him in any more situations where he could re-injure the thing.”

“He was sore, obviously, coming out of the game,” Bevell said Tuesday. “He did take a couple hits in that game as we talked about yesterday, and again, he’s tough as they come, he’s tough as nails, and so we’ll do basically the same plan. I think he may be a little bit better than he was last week. But again, we’ll just continue to take it day-to-day.”

The Lions canceled their walk-through Tuesday after the team reported two positive COVID-19 tests, and it is unclear if Stafford will practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Nearing the end of his 12th NFL season, Stafford has mostly fought through a slew of late-season injuries in recent years, some of which have impacted his play.

He missed eight games with fractured bones in his back last season, but played through transverse fractures in his back in 2018 and a hand injury two years earlier.

Even at less than 100%, Stafford is clearly the Lions’ best option at quarterback. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, and kept the Lions within striking distance until early in the fourth quarter.

At 5-9, though, the Lions are heading into an offseason of change.

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They will hire a new head coach and general manager in the coming weeks who will have to decide whether to bring Stafford back for a 13th season in Detroit or embark on a total rebuild.

Stafford, who turns 33 in February, also could have a say in the matter, as he declined comment about his future after the firings of Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn.

From a health standpoint, Lions quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said the decision on whether to allow Stafford to continue playing is in the hands of team trainers and doctors.

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Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson speaks to the media on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

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“I trust them to do their job,” Ryan said. “My job’s to get everybody in that room ready to play. Matthew shows up every day intent on working and getting ready to play. So until he lets me know something different, we don’t talk about it. I trust everyone to do their job and to do it well, and they do. And we just move forward from there. So not an issue in the quarterback room.”

Asked if he would revisit the decision to continue playing Stafford, Bevell pointed to comments Stafford made after the Titans game, that he felt obligated to continue playing for his teammates and the organization as long as he was healthy, and said, “To be honest with you, I don’t think he’ll let that happen.”

“These guys are true competitors,” Bevell said. “I think you saw what his statement to you guys after the game. I mean, there’s a sense of pride, there’s a sense of that you need to be there, you want to be there for your teammates.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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