Detroit Lions comfortable with backup QB spot, even with Hendon Hooker injury

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions are in no rush to add more competition to their quarterback room, even if Hendon Hooker is forced to take a redshirt season this fall.

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said last week he likes where the team is at with the quarterback position. Nate Sudfeld is currently ticketed for backup duties behind Jared Goff and undrafted rookie Adrian Martinez is serving as the No. 3 quarterback while Hooker rehabs from college knee surgery.

“I love the room right now,” Johnson said. “There’s a great camaraderie in there and I think that’s really important when you define that backup quarterback position. It’s not only a guy that can go in and win games, but for the majority of the season, if all things go right, he’s there to support that starter and we have that. We have that right now, not only with Nate and Hendon and Adrian.”

The Lions re-signed Sudfeld to a one-year deal this spring, but pursued Teddy Bridgewater in free agency before eventually using a third-round pick on Hooker in April’s draft.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said Hooker won’t play for “a long time” after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee last fall and likely needs a “redshirt year” this season. Hooker will not take part in drills at mandatory minicamp this week, though he has attended practices this spring as an observer.

More: 5 Detroit Lions to watch in minicamp: Jameson Williams, Jared Goff working on chemistry

If the Lions exercise the same timeline in Hooker’s return that they did with Jameson Williams last year, Hooker won’t be cleared for football activities until after training camp. That likely would lock Sudfeld, who appeared in two games and did not attempt a pass last season, into the No. 2 quarterback role early in the season.

Martinez, who threw 51 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in five college seasons at Nebraska and Kansas State, has worked as the Lions’ third quarterback this spring. Martinez also rushed for an impressive 2,928 yards and 45 touchdowns in his college career.

Bridgewater, who started two games for the Miami Dolphins last season and played for Campbell with the New Orleans Saints in 2018-19, remains unsigned.

“We’ve got a really good group,” Johnson said. “They’re learning, they’re growing. And once again, we’re evaluating consistently, we’re putting pressure on them consistently to see what they can do out on the field in team settings.”

Goff, 28, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and could be in line for a contract extension if he leads the Lions to their first playoff appearance since 2016. He missed three games in 2021 with knee and shoulder injuries and one in 2020 with a broken thumb.

“The truth really comes out, I believe, when you have the bullets flying for real, which we can’t have right now,” Johnson said. “So, the training camp will tell us a lot about where we’re at behind Jared, but so far, feel really good about that room.”

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

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