While most NFL teams this time of year focus on getting into the playoffs, the Lions for the 10th straight season are ”playing for next year.” Detroit has taken a step forward this season with some of their their recent draft picks developing into major contributors. The 2010 class is led by DT Ndamukong Suh who has lived up to all the hype of being the #2 overall pick. Suh should win Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as earn a trip to the Pro Bowl. Other 2010 draft picks with a bright future for the Lions are starters RB Jahvid Best and S Amari Spievey. Both were high draft picks.
The Lions also found some starters in the 2009 class. First round pick TE Brandon Pettigrew is having a solid season tied for 2nd in catches among NFL TE. Other 2009 class members having an excellent season (with no sophomore slump) are 2nd round draft pick S Louis Delmas and 3rd round draft pick LB DeAndre Levy.
So that brings us to the Lions 2009 first round draft pick and No. 1 overall pick – QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford has the tools to become a successful NFL quarterback with his strong arm and his mental sharpness. The problem is simple – he cannot stay healthy. Last year against the Bears he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for a couple of games. He came back and played in a couple more games until he got hurt again during the well-publicized Cleveland Brown game. For those who don’t remember, this was when rookie Stafford threw the winning TD with an injured left shoulder. This season Stafford has been plagued with a right shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 vs. Chicago – thanks to Julius Peppers. Stafford missed the next 5 games but returned in Week 8 against Washington with a win. The following game Stafford re-injured his right shoulder late in the 4th quarter against the N.Y. Jets, when he was running out of the pocket. So far this season, Stafford has played in just 3 games - and has only finished one due to injury.
After getting multiple medical opinions from the Lions’ doctors and the famous Dr. Andrews, it was determined that Stafford would not need surgery, but just needs rest. So since Week 9, the Lions have kept a roster spot for Stafford rather than placing him on IR – knowing he may never play again this season.
With three games left, Stafford is no closer to be ready to play. He did some light throwing 10 days ago, but has not thrown in any organized practice since. The Lions state Stafford will only play if he is 100% healthy. For obvious reasons, the Lions do not want to risk him missing offseason workouts or organized activities. On the other hand, it will be good for him to test the shoulder in live play and not have to wait until pre-season. Also, it would provide some excitement for fans having Stafford play the final game at home. This season has already been a very disappointing one, but unless Stafford starts throwing next week in practice, the Lions would be wise to put their franchise QB on IR and not risk further injury.
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Written by Bob Ballard