Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford won't need surgery to repair his injured right shoulder, coach Jim Schwartz said Monday. That's the good news. The bad news is that for the third time in the past 17 games, a Stafford injury has left the Lions in nebulous uncertainty about when he will be in position to help them on the field.
Recall that Stafford dislocated his knee cap in Week 4 last season and missed the Lions' next two games. He returned in Week 8 and started three games before injuring his left shoulder on a now-infamous play at the end of a 38-37 victory against the Cleveland Browns. He made two starts thereafter before the Lions shut him down for the final four games of the season.
During a training camp interview, Stafford acknowledged that among the top assets of any franchise quarterback is "being available" and spoke of his deep frustration in missing six games of his rookie season. So you can imagine his reaction, and the Lions' disappointment, in knowing he's probably going to miss at least the first month of his second season with a new injury.
*Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Stafford has a second-degree separation of the shoulder. He'll miss at least one week and possibly more after visiting Dr. James Andrews this week.
Health in the NFL is such a fickle thing. Every week, we see nearly-41-year-old quarterback Brett Favre pop up from hits more violent than the one that ultimately felled Stafford on Sunday. Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers hit Stafford but didn't land on him nor drive him into the ground, and yet Stafford suffered what by all accounts is a significant injury.
I don't want to take a thing away from Stafford here. This isn't a toughness issue. Anyone crazy enough to step on an NFL field is plenty tough. But it's only fair to face the facts. If the reported 4-6 week timetable on this injury is accurate, Stafford will have missed as many NFL games as he's started when he finally returns to the field. He can't be the Lions' franchise quarterback if he isn't on the field, and the Lions can't go where they want to go without a franchise quarterback. I'll let you do the math.