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NOTEBOOK: Stafford dealing with throwing hand injury

Posted Dec 6, 2017

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Wednesday's practice including Matthew Stafford's injury, Kenny Golladay's rookie season and more.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is “not out of the woods yet," according to Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, as Stafford continues to rehab a right hand injury suffered last week in Baltimore.

"We'll kind of see what he can do as the week goes on,” Caldwell said. “It's not like it's some insignificant injury. That's not the case. It's something that we're going to have to look at and deal with here over the course of the week to see where he is. Yeah, he's not out of the woods."

Stafford suffered the injury Sunday when he was stepped on by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs after throwing a fourth-quarter interception. Stafford left the game and did not return.

He underwent X-rays at M&T Bank Stadium, which were negative. But Stafford did say after the game the hand was sore after experiencing a burning nerve-type pain when it occurred.

These next three days are going to be critical in determining if Stafford can still do all the functions it takes to play quarterback, which goes beyond just gripping and throwing the ball, to also include taking the snap and handing it off.

“It’ll be important to take a look at it and see how it’s feeling and hopefully get it progressing throughout the week,” Stafford said Wednesday.

Stafford’s played through injuries to his throwing hand before. He played through a broken index finger in 2011 and a dislocated middle finger last season, though his numbers suffered in both instances.  

“Every one of them is different,” Stafford said, when asked how difficult it is to play through throwing hand injuries. “This one is just the same. You have to kind of figure out what feels good and what doesn’t and go from there.”

Stafford did take part in the open portion of practice Wednesday, but didn’t do a whole lot. That open portion lasts about 10 minutes. During that time Stafford handed the ball off a couple times, but didn’t do any throwing.

But given his history of playing through injury, and his current iron man streak of games started dating back to 2011, it would be somewhat surprising if Stafford didn't at least try and give it a go Sunday in Tampa Bay.

He currently ranks second (Tom Brady) in the NFL with 3,302 passing yards. In his past three games on the road, Stafford has 952 passing yards (317.3 per game), five touchdowns and one interception for a 121.8 passer rating.

The last time the Lions faced Tampa Bay, Stafford passed for 305 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 118.9.

DUAL DEEP THREAT

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. is among the NFL leaders with 16 receptions of 20-plus yards this season, but Jones isn’t the only Lions player proving he can be a real threat down the field.

Rookie receiver Kenny Golladay leads all rookies with four receptions of 40-plus yards on the season, despite the fact that he’s played in only seven games this year because of a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for more than a month.

“Well, he’s got size and speed, you know, that’s an unusual combination,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of his rookie pass catcher.

“Often times you may find a guy with size that maybe can’t outrun you, you may find a guy with speed obviously that his size is such where he’s a bit smaller, not a big target. This guy has both, he has size and speed and it just depends on his development and how he comes along, but we think he will.”

One other coach who isn’t surprised Golladay’s had some early success in the NFL is his former coach at Northern Illinois, Rod Carey.

“Given his ability, that doesn’t surprise me,” Carey said Wednesday during the Quick Lane Bowl press conference in Allen Park.

“I’m happy for him at the same time, and I know it took a lot of work. He’s one of those kids that’s just a blue-collar Chicago kid. He fits really well in with Detroit and the blue-collar attitude that is up here I know with Jim Caldwell and the team. He’s a worker, so surprised, no.”

Stafford seems to have a lot of confidence in Golladay right now, and that's just going to grow the more Golladay experiences things and continues to make plays.

“Yeah, he’s a big, physical kid," Stafford said of Golladay. "Shown the ability to battle and go get the football. Obviously, he’s got some down the field speed, like you said, he’s made a lot of big plays for us. He does a nice job. He’s going to continue to get better with reps.

"Having him back and running around just adds to the weapons that we have. Like I always say, we’re at our best when we’re spreading it around, and all those guys are impacting the game in their own way.”

SLAY FOR PRO BOWL

Since 2014, Lions cornerback Darius Slay is the only player with 50-plus passes defended (58), 10-plus interceptions (10) and a sack (1).

Slay’s been terrific all season for Detroit. He's traveled with some of the best receivers this league has, and opposing quarterbacks have a 67.5 passer rating when throwing in his direction with just three touchdowns and four interceptions. Slay's name is among the early leaders at cornerback in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl.

His play has been steadily building up to this point, but a Pro Bowl selection would solidify his standing as one of the best young cornerbacks in the game.

Slay said Wednesday that he wanted to earn a Pro Bowl nod because it's a sign of respect from not only the fans, but his fellow players and coaches.

"I feel like that's how you get recognized for your individual talent," he said. "I feel like I'm one of the top guys in the league at my position."

How disappointed would Slay be if he's left out again this season?

"So disappointed," he said. "I've got numbers that prove a lot. Everybody sees I follow the best (receivers). I don't know what else you have to do."

Slay is currently tied for the NFC lead with 15 passes defended. He has four interceptions and has defended 12 passes over his past 10 games.  

QUOTE OF DAY

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who used to coach Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter at the University of Tennessee, in Detroit Wednesday for the Quick Lane Bowl press conference:

“I got requests every week from CBS people, that was who was covering the SEC at the time, ‘Please, David, put Jim Bob Cooter in the game so we can just say that name, Jim Bob Cooter in at quarterback.’ That was the most requested item I got every week.”