Injured Matthew Stafford Still Eyeing Return In 2019: "This Is What I Do"

He has fractured bones in his back, and a future to consider.

Will Burchfield
November 20, 2019 - 7:22 pm

Rey Del Rio / Stringer

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With Matthew Stafford sidelined due to fractured bones in his back and the Lions stumbling through another losing season, a number of observers think he should shut it down for the year. That includes former Lions great Herman Moore. 

It does not include Stafford himself.

“Haven’t talked about that at all, to be honest with you," Stafford said on Wednesday. "Just monitoring (the back) and trying to figure out when the best time (to return) is going to be.”

This is Stafford's way. It's been his way as long as he's played in the NFL. That's how he started 136 straight games from 2010-19, the sixth longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history. He's played through the back injury and a hip injury this year alone. 

Why is taking the field so important, even when his body is battered? 

“Because this is what I do," Stafford said. "I understand your question, but this is what I do. I love playing football, I appreciate all the hard work the guys in this locker room and in this organization put into going out there and trying to win on Sunday, and I love being part of that.

"It’s tough for me to sit there without the pads on and not be able to impact the game on the field the way I’m used to doing. That’s driving me to get back out there. And whenever we all deem it’s the right time for me to be back out there, I’ll be back out there.”

Still, there's a future to think about. And with the Lions' current situation so ugly, it would behoove Stafford and the team to allow his back the rest of the year to heal. He played through a similar injury at the end of last season, and there's a feeling it never fully recovered. Now he's dealing with a more serious issue. 

Does his health for next season ever become the most important factor? The idea gave Stafford pause. 

"I don’t know," he said. "That’s a good question. I think, for me, if I’m healthy enough to go play, I’m going to go play. Every time I step out on the football field, the next week, the next play, the next year’s health is in question, because it’s a violent game. I understand that. But for me, if I’m healthy enough to go play, I’m going to go play. "

As for the exact nature of his injury, Stafford wouldn't get into the details. He said the decision to play last year versus this year is "a conversation that’s private between me, the head coach, the doctors." Matt Patricia said Wednesday that Stafford remains week to week, but acknowledged his outlook could change based on the Lions' record over the next few weeks. 

If Detroit is completely out of it by, say, mid-December, and Stafford is still sidelined, that might be the point where the team shuts him down. 

"For us, it’s probably a different conversation as you get closer toward the end of the season," said Patricia. 

Until that time comes, though, Stafford is committed to getting back on the field -- no matter what anyone else might be saying on the outside. 

“I don’t pay too much attention to it because everybody’s situation is different,” he said. “I just know the work I put into every season and I want to get as many chances to go out there and play with these guys as I possibly can. That’s really how I think about it.”