Why risk Stafford in the first place?

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has been declared out for Sunday’s game at Baltimore, and backup Daunte Culpepper will make the start.

Let’s get right to it. I don’t care what the reasoning was. No matter which way you look at it, the move was a tacit admission the Lions erred by starting Stafford in each of the two games since he suffered the injury Nov. 22.

Coach Jim Schwartz insisted Wednesday there “hasn’t been any change in his diagnosis or medical reports or anything,” which is coach-speak for saying Stafford hasn’t further damaged the shoulder by playing. Schwartz said that a fourth-quarter hit Stafford absorbed last Sunday against Cincinnati has caused “tremendous pain” and that the team wants to avoid a “continuing cycle” of setbacks.

It’s best to give Stafford rest to “put this behind him,” Schwartz said. The issue is a matter of “contact,” not a new physical development.

If the injury is indeed no worse, that means it’s the same as when he first suffered it. So if sitting him makes sense now, it should have made sense then.

You have to wonder why the Lions thought Stafford could put a separated left shoulder behind him while still playing. Did they think Stafford wouldn’t get hit again?

I’m not blaming Schwartz nor Stafford nor any other individual because there are too many unknowns about how the process played out behind closed doors. Who made the final call? Coaches? Medical people? Stafford?

We’ll probably never know the answers. But when you step back and think about it, it’s hard to imagine a justification for having your franchise quarterback on the field in such a compromised situation -- especially now that it’s led him to the bench. Whether the Lions admit it or not, Stafford’s effectiveness was clearly impacted, especially toward the end of both games. If nothing else, the Lions extended Stafford’s recovery period by playing him. Instead of being healed on Day X, he’ll now be healed on Day X + two weeks.

You often hear teams talk about “erring on the side of caution.” In the case of their franchise quarterback, the Lions inexplicably did not. Call me crazy, but I don’t get it.