Sources: Matthew Stafford hurt early

Matthew Stafford originally injured his right shoulder early in the second quarter of the Detroit Lions' Week 9 game against the New York Jets, but he continued to play effectively until suffering a game-ending shoulder separation with six minutes left in the game, sources confirmed Sunday.

Stafford grabbed his right shoulder initially when he was tackled near the sideline trying to evade a sack by the Jets' Bryan Thomas at the 14:11 mark of the second quarter. Ten minutes later, after throwing a pass, he winced and grabbed his shoulder without any physical contact. Finally, Stafford left the game with 6:06 left in the fourth quarter when Thomas tackled him from behind on a scramble.

It is unknown if Stafford suffered any serious damage on the second-quarter hit but Stafford continued to play and made some effective throws. He did not report any significant concerns to the medical or coaching staff at the time.

Stafford is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday to determine if surgery is necessary.

MLive.com first reported this week that Stafford has a Grade 3 shoulder separation. Normally, an operation is required for an injury of nature.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz inferred earlier in the week that the inflammation and swelling in Stafford's shoulder needed to subside to allow Andrews to examine the former Georgia product.

After consulting a preliminary MRI, Dr. Andrews has informed Stafford and the Lions that he believes Stafford's Grade 3 shoulder separation is not as severe as what Sam Bradford suffered last season at Oklahoma, according to sources.

Andrews operated on Bradford's shoulder last October and after intensive rehab, the Rams' No. 1 draft pick has emerged as a leading candidate for the NFL's offensive rookie of the year.

Stafford traveled with the Lions on Sunday to Buffalo. Even if he opted for a conservative non-surgical approach, it would be a surprise if he played again in 2010. The Lions and Stafford have not ruled out a return.

Stafford was the team's No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft. He had no durability issues in 36 starts at the University of Georgia but he has only played in 13 of 24 games since he joined the Lions.

Chris Mortensen is ESPN's Senior NFL Analyst.