When the Lions host the Bears on Sunday, it’ll be Drew Stanton — the former Farmington Hills Harrison and Michigan State standout — getting his second start for the Lions in four years. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Allen Park -- Shaun Hill can't help but see a little of himself in Drew Stanton.
And now we'll all get a second chance — and maybe the last, best chance in Detroit — to see for ourselves what he's talking about.
Hill, the Lions backup-turned-starter at quarterback, is out at least the next few weeks with a broken right index finger. Matthew Stafford, the team's young franchise quarterback, remains sidelined as he rehabs a separated throwing shoulder. Zac Robinson, the rookie claimed off waivers last month, still is learning the names of some of his teammates, let alone Scott Linehan's playbook.
So when the Lions host the Bears on Sunday, it'll be Stanton — the former Farmington Hills Harrison and Michigan State standout — getting his second start in four years.
Which, from Hill's perspective, puts Stanton ahead of schedule.
"He's getting his chance a couple years prior to when I got mine," Hill said, smiling.
OK, so it's not exactly a fast track. But in the first four years of Hill's career, he took a total of two live snaps — a pair of kneel-downs for Minnesota in the final game of 2005. He waited six years to throw his first regular-season pass with the 49ers, before finally getting a chance as the team's starter.
So, yes, Hill admits, "It's very similar," this waiting game Stanton — and a hopeful hometown fan base — has played since the Lions made him a second-round pick in 2007.
"It's tough when the only live work you get is in the preseason," said Hill, in his ninth year. "You can't get the experience of playing, which kind of sets you back. But it's also just tough on your competitive nature. You want to be out there."
Looking for answers
Sunday, Stanton gets to be out there as something other than a bystander, making his first start at Ford Field. His only previous start came at the end of last season, when he got the nod over an ineffective Daunte Culpepper on Dec. 27 at San Francisco. But after a four-turnover performance and an ankle sprain in a 20-6 loss, Stanton was relegated to a backup role the next week for the finale against the Bears.
"I mean, you'd like to play more," he said Wednesday. "But I don't have a say over that."
This season, after Hill was brought in to be the No. 2 behind Stafford, Stanton's only significant action came in relief in losses to the Giants and Jets. He'll start Sunday because he's the only viable option.
"He's probably motivated by a lot of things, but more than anything, this is an opportunity for him to create a name for himself," receiver Nate Burleson said. "Being the third quarterback in a system isn't easy. (But) if he goes out and shows he can help us beat a good team, Drew Stanton goes from 'Who's that guy?' to 'We need a guy like that on our team.'"Does he have a future as an NFL quarterback?
That's hard to say. But Sunday's a chance for Stanton to answer for himself.
"I mean, there's a reason we've kept him around," coach Jim Schwartz said. "You only keep a guy around if you have confidence to put him in the game. ... Now it's time for him to be able to answer that … . He needs to lead this team. He needs to play well for us."
Time to move on?
To play well, you first have to play, obviously.
And while Stanton had nothing but nice things to say Wednesday about his former coach, Rod Marinelli, now the Bears defensive coordinator, it's fair to say he never got a fair shot earlier in his career.
The first of his three offensive coordinators in Detroit, Mike Martz, now the Bears offensive coordinator, decided the rookie was a lost cause, even as he demanded a complete overhaul of Stanton's mechanics.
Asked Wednesday if any of Martz's changes stuck, Stanton chuckled, "Not a single one."
But, "that's behind me. That was something that I had to go through and grew up in the process and I'm stronger now because of it. … But that's not my focus. I'm not taking a snap against Mike Martz."
Sticking it to Martz — or anybody else — isn't the goal. It's about sticking around, Stanton says.
"I want to go out there and prove — well, not prove, but reaffirm — the fact that Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli made the right choice in drafting me," Stanton said.
It's probably too late for that in Detroit. Stafford's the franchise cornerstone, and Hill's signed through 2011. And with Stanton's rookie contract expiring this winter, if he's ever going to move up a depth chart, it may have to be elsewhere.
Either way, though, Stanton's here now, and for that he gives some credit to role models like Jon Kitna, the Lions starter in Stanton's first two seasons.
"One thing I've always tried to do is get around veterans and just pick their brain about how some of them survive in this league," Stanton said. "I mean, it truly is survival for some of us."
Stanton, 26, laughed when asked if he felt like a "survivor" after what he has been through in Detroit, including a handful of major injuries and more than a few insults.
"I don't know," he said. "I guess that remains to be seen. Hopefully. But the situation that I'm in right now, I definitely have to make the most of it. And I plan on doing that."