Stafford among motorists near bridge collapse

Rod Beard and Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was among those in traffic approaching a pedestrian bridge that collapsed onto the Southfield Freeway in Detroit early Friday morning, but he was unharmed.

The Cathedral Street overpass bridge near the Joy Road exit collapsed around 6 a.m. after being hit by an oversized truck. The truck driver died; no other injuries have been reported.

Stafford was heading southbound, going to the Lions' practice facility in Allen Park for Friday morning's practice. He said he didn't see the bridge collapse but was one of the first few vehicles approaching the downed bridge.

"I think I got right up to it right around 5:50," Stafford said Friday afternoon. "It shocked me but it probably shocked some people that were right around it even more.

"I didn't really know what I was looking at; you don't expect to see that when you're driving to work. I'm sure there were people closer to it than I was."

Stafford was seen walking near the collapsed bridge afterward. Elton Moore, the Lions' director of security, also was near the scene and gave Stafford his car so the quarterback could drive to the practice facility. Moore waited in Stafford's car until authorities let him drive away.

"Elton, who is in charge of security here, happened to be not too many cars behind Matthew," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Although (police) didn't let (Stafford) go through underneath the bridge, he was able to get turned around and head back in the other direction. I think he actually took Elton's car."

Caldwell said that he had arrived earlier at the practice facility and he and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had just missed the bridge collapse.

"Fortunately, because I had probably gone by that same section maybe 15 to 20 minutes prior — somewhere between 5:30 and 6 myself — and Teryl Austin wasn't too far behind me," Caldwell said. "By the time we get to the facility, we had heard about it and found out that Matthew was right there at the front of the line."

Although many players use the Southfield Freeway to drive to team headquarters, a team spokesman said no other Lions needed to be taken from traffic as of about 8:30 a.m.

"Most guys made it in okay. I called our security guy and said send out a mass text just to let everybody know not to take Southfield," Stafford said. "There were a couple guys on our team calling me and (asking), 'Should I turn around?' and I said yeah."

The Lions could not have afforded an injury to their franchise quarterback. They've already lost four key players to injured reserve, and tight end Joseph Fauria suffered an ankle injury Wednesday night not related to football activities.