The primary topic of Head Coach Jim Schwartz’s Monday press conference was the health status of rookie quarterback
Stafford, who suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in Detroit’s win over Cleveland two weeks ago, fell on that shoulder again Sunday at Cincinnati. Stafford was in clear pain and left the game with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Schwartz says he has yet to get an official diagnosis from team doctors, but he believes whether Stafford plays this week will be nothing more than a pain issue.
“He doesn’t have a structural issue,” said Schwartz. “He doesn’t have something that makes it impossible for him to practice or even adversely practice. He has a situation that it hurts when he gets hit and, unfortunately in the game of football, you’re going to get hit.”
Both national and local media have questioned Schwartz’s decision to keep Stafford in the game that long, considering his shoulder situation.
But Schwartz is more than comfortable with the decisions he made, even though the Lions were trailing by two scores for much of the game.
“Everybody’s going to have an opinion; everybody’s going to have judgment on it,” said Schwartz. “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.”
Schwartz has said this season that he is only concerned with winning each game and, down by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, the Lions had the opportunity to win that game.
“I know the situation, I’m there on the sideline with him during the game and I’m very comfortable in our decision to play him and keep him in that game,” said Schwartz. “We’re down 13 points in the fourth quarter in the National Football League. We have a chance to win that game.”
Looking ahead to this week’s game against Baltimore, Schwartz doesn’t want to disclose whether or not Stafford will start considering the Ravens play Monday night at Green Bay.
“Competitively, I’m not going to say a whole lot about injuries as we move forward because they’ll be on a short week, particularly being on the road and things like that,” he said. “But Matt was sore after the game; (it was) a lot of the same soreness that he had after the Cleveland game.”
Baltimore is known for having a hard-hitting defense with a strong front seven, so the stigma surrounding this game is that Stafford will have even more of a chance for contact.
Schwartz won’t rule out the rookie quarterback, who will undoubtedly want to play if he feels he can. The idea that the coaching staff would force Stafford to play against his will, however, is completely off base.
“(Talking to Stafford is) something that goes into the evaluation,” said Schwartz. “It’s one thing to talk to the doctors and say, ‘Okay, where is he with this injury? Is this a situation that can be made worse?’ It’s another thing to see the player’s confidence and to see where he is from a pain management standpoint and things like that.”
Stafford knows he will get hit when he enters a game, so the possibility of pain is looming. If Stafford’s confidence is wavering, he may not play to the level he can without the injury.
But up until this point, the Lions have not seen a difference with Stafford’s accuracy or ability to make plays – even with the shoulder injury.
“Matt’s a resilient guy,” said Schwartz. “You don’t go out and play with that situation knowing that there’s going to be a time during the game that you’re going to get hit if you’re not confident and you’re not a tough guy, and he is. He’s both of those.”
In preparation for this game, however, Detroit may prepare all three quarterbacks for the possibility of receiving playing time.
“We’ve had that situation in the past where we’ve had other guys ready,” said Schwartz. “We split reps back when his knee was an issue to not only have a No. 2 ready, but a No. 3 ready in case that situation warranted it.
“We’re always going to be in a situation where you’ve got to have the other guy ready, and from a rep standpoint, it makes sense to rep other guys.”