Matthew Stafford works with first team

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford worked with the first team at practice Thursday, a sign of progress after he hurt his ankle last weekend.

"He has improved," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I think that he's on a pretty good track right now."

Stafford was limited Wednesday, but he looked comfortable a day later in the portion of practice open to reporters. He hurt his right ankle late in Sunday's 23-16 loss to Atlanta, hobbling off the field after a fourth down incompletion, but it was hard to tell how serious the injury was because the Lions never got the ball back after Stafford came off.

Detroit plays at Denver this Sunday. Stafford has completed 60 percent of his passes this season, for 1,912 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Although Schwartz was guarded with his optimism, and Stafford was listed as limited Thursday, wide receiver Nate Burleson was impressed with the quarterback's recovery.

"For anybody wondering if he's tough, he definitely is," Burleson said. "Today he took every single rep, so he's ready to rock."

Burleson said Stafford's ankle was black and blue on Wednesday, but he's participated in practice anyway.

"I was anticipating him not taking many reps this week, but in my mind right now, he's going to be out there on Sunday," Burleson said.

Stafford played in only three games last season because of shoulder problems, but he got off to a brilliant start this season, helping the Lions to a 5-0 record before they dropped their last two games. Backup Shaun Hill is preparing to play if Stafford can't.

Running back Jahvid Best (concussion) and rookie defensive lineman Nick Fairley (foot) did not practice Thursday. Fairley injured his left foot before the season, and he's played only three games.

"This would be his fourth preseason game," Schwartz said. "When you consider it that way -- a rookie, improved each game and then made some plays in each of the games that he played -- I think that we're happy with the track that he was on."