The chatter has already begun with some fans. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has now suffered fractures in his back in two consecutive season. Back issues are always taken seriously, and at 31 years old, Stafford is likely closer to the end of his NFL career than the start of it. So, naturally, some are starting to wonder if these injuries are starting to make the veteran quarterback reconsider his commitment to playing this game, or if the injury itself could force him to retire early.
But Stafford was resolute in his love of the game when he met with the media on Wednesday.
“I want to play for a long time, yeah,” Stafford said. “I felt like I was playing really good ball this year and (the back injury) was kind of a freak deal that happened. Obviously, I’ve got to take it in stride, and listen to doctors, my body, coaches, everybody, kinda try to figure out what’s best, but I was having a lot of fun playing when I was out there.”
Stafford may be being a bit modest here. He was in the midst of arguably the best season of his 11-year career. He was on pace to set personal records in passer rating (106.0), yards per attempt (8.6), and his personal best TD:INT ratio (19:5).
As for the injury itself, Stafford assured media that there is no long-term concern about aggravation or lingering pain.
“I think it’s continuing to heal as it should,” Stafford said.
But are there any concerns about recurring injuries here?
“No. Trying to make sure it’s not, you know what I mean. But, no.”
So once it’s healed, it’s healed?
“It should be. Yes, sir.”
Stafford remains on the 53-man roster, and there is still a chance he sees the field before the season is through, despite the fact that Detroit has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Stafford has already expressed his desire to take back the starting job, no matter what the team record is, but it’s looking less and less likely that will actually happen, with only four games remaining and Stafford still sidelined during practices.
Head coach Matt Patricia admitted that part of the reason Stafford is not on injured reserve is out of respect for Stafford himself.
“Obviously we’re going to keep that door open and see what happens here with all the stuff we’re doing with the doctors and everything from that standpoint,” Patricia said earlier in the week. “Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team, what he brings every single week, we’re just going to take it week-by-week and see what happens from that standpoint.”
For now, Stafford will have to continue his role as mentor—a role he admittedly doesn’t like as much as playing, but is willing to assume to help the team in any way he can.