Allen Park — Facing uncertainty with quarterback Matthew Stafford's injury status going forward, Lions coach Matt Patricia tried Monday to clarify the process of him missing Sunday’s loss to the Bears.
The second-year coach gave the team a heads-up Saturday that Stafford might not be available before ultimately holding the quarterback out on Sunday morning.
“Knowing Matthew Stafford, he wants to play,” Patricia said during an over 4-minute answer about the process. “He’s extremely tough, he’s extremely competitive. And honestly, we spent most of Saturday trying to figure out a way, if there was a way, for him to play safely.
“That’s really it. He’s really competitive. He’s honestly one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around.
“I just wanted to wait as long as possible. ... Out of respect for him, and everything he’s done for the organization, I just wanted to leave the option open when we got to Sunday if he wanted to dress. I think that’s important to a player.”
Stafford started 136 straight games for the Lions until Sunday’s 20-13 loss, where Jeff Driskel played in relief of the 31-year-old quarterback, who reportedly has a back injury.
The 11-year vet held out hope over the weekend that the streak, which dates back to the beginning of the 2011 season, could continue. Instead, the Lions fell to 3-5-1, making it near-certain that Patricia will make it two straight non-playoff seasons to start his coaching tenure.
"At a certain point, I’ve got to do what’s best for the team too," Stafford said. "I wanted to make sure that I gave myself as much opportunity, as much time, as I possibly could.
"I knew (Saturday night) I wasn’t going to be able to start the game, but I just wanted to be available if they needed me to finish the game handing off, or hold a kick… I don’t know, something."
ESPN reported Monday morning that the NFL was looking into the process of how Stafford’s injury process was handled. The team could have downgraded his injury status Saturday after ruling him questionable on Friday.
"If you downgrade a player to out, then you can’t make him active or dressed," Patricia said. "That was the only thing I thought that would be more messed up, right? Trying to get a guy to dress after we downgrade him to out. OK, let’s take the night, let’s go to bed and let’s wake up (Sunday) and see how we feel, and then make a decision."
Patricia said Stafford was limited in practice all last week, with Driskel and Stafford taking reps.
Patricia said there was additional scans on Friday night of Stafford, causing the Lions to have “internal discussions” over the weekend about his status.
“The discussions, the details of those, I’m going to leave private, because those are medical conversations,” Patricia said.
The Lions also extended the walk-through on Saturday to give players “a double amount of reps.”
Out of respect for Stafford, Patricia said he held out hope that Sunday morning, there would be a way he could dress.
"Out of respect for him and everything that he’s done for this organization, I just wanted to leave the option open when we got to Sunday if he wanted to dress," Patricia said. "I think that’s important, I think that’s important to a player."
That would not be the case, as Stafford was ruled out a few hours before the game.
"I think it was the right decision, a collective decision," Stafford said. "It’s tough. I love playing this game, I work really hard to be out there for my teammates and wasn’t able to do it.
"It's a tough pill to swallow."
Driskel connected on 27-of-46 passing for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his sixth career start, moving his career record to 1-5 as two late potential game-tying drives stalled short.
"I was pulling really hard for him. He plays the game different than I do, but it’s fun to watch," Stafford said. "I thought, given the circumstances, he did a really nice job of coming in and giving us a chance to win there at the end."
Going forward, Patricia offered no insight about Stafford’s availability with a visit from Dallas looming on Sunday at Ford Field.
“No updates on him,” Patricia said. “Just truly day by day, week by week for him right now as far he’s concerned.”
Stafford is not the only one with injury uncertainty. Patricia confirmed that running back Ty Johnson and offensive tackle Rick Wagner on Sunday joined linebacker Miles Killebrew in the concussion protocol.
Defensive linemen Mike Daniels (leg) and Kevin Strong (ribs) also left Sunday's game early, joining a long list of ailing players that includes Stafford, safety Tracy Walker (knee), defensive linemen Da'Shawn Hand (ankle) and Romeo Okwara (groin), among others.
But Stafford is obviously the most important one, and the quarterback said he'll work this week to try and be ready for his hometown Cowboys. His presence can't be overstated, as the Lions fell Sunday to 5-15 in games he does not start since the franchise drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009.
"My thinking is to try and be out there as quickly as I can to help us win," Stafford said. "I’m going to do everything I can to be out there, you guys know that. I think that’s probably going to be a decision that’s probably week to week whether or not I can make it out there.
"But I’m going to do everything I can to try and be out there as soon as possible.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.