Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford: Back isn't keeping me out, 'I feel good'

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said his absence from the first two games of the preseason is not in any way related to the back injury he suffered last year.

"Oh, no," Stafford said Monday. "I feel good."

The Lions held Stafford out of Saturday's 30-23 preseason loss to the Houston Texans as well as their Aug. 8 loss to the New England Patriots.

Stafford also took six days off from throwing around the Patriots game, and while both he and Lions coach Matt Patricia insist the rest was pre-planned, that hasn't stopped anyone from wondering why a 31-year-old prime-of-his-career quarterback learning a new offense needs so much time off in August.

Stafford is coming off one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, when he threw for fewer than 4,000 yards, committed 15 turnovers and played the end of the season through a painful back injury.

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford watches from the sideline in the second half during the preseason game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 17, 2019 in Houston.

He reiterated Monday that he did not need postseason surgery, and said he's presently doing "not much" to care for his back.

"I’m just practicing," Stafford said. "I do a little core routine. You want to do the core with me one day?"

Stafford, who currently has the third-longest starting streak among active quarterbacks at 128 straight games, said his core workouts are "nothing too crazy" and nothing different than what he's done in past seasons.

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In past years, however, Stafford has been a regular participant in all training-camp practices and most preseason games.

He typically plays a series in the preseason opener, though Patricia held him out of that game completely last year, a quarter or so in the second preseason game, and a full half and sometimes into the third quarter in the third preseason game.

Patricia, on Saturday, was non-committal about whether Stafford will play in this week's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, and Stafford was indifferent when asked if he needed actual game reps this preseason to get ready for the Lions' regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia talks with Matthew Stafford on the field before action against the New England Patriots, Aug. 8, 2019, at Ford Field.

“I said it earlier, when they tell me to go play I’m going to go play," Stafford said. "I’ve played a lot of football. Obviously, I love playing so anytime we go out there and practice I’m always itching to get out there and play. But whenever Coach lets me or tells me to go play, I’ll go play."

More:Is it concerning Stafford hasn’t played in the preseason?

Asked Monday what concerns if any he has about Stafford in his return from injury, Patricia talked about his decision to give Stafford time off.

"Nope. I mean, everything for us right now is just going forward," Patricia said. "It’s kind of just as we try to really take a look at the season and the offseason and everything that he’s been doing from that standpoint and through training camp to figure out good times to get really good high-competition reps and then know when maybe it would be a good opportunity for somebody else to get good high-competition reps and/or have a little bit of a break before everything kicks off at a high level.

"Because once that happens you can’t stop it from that standpoint, knowing that when we look at the full schedule, not only just training camp but the season, knowing that there’s going to be a spot relatively early in our season where the bye week is and then after that it’s a very long stretch for us. We know we have to do the best we can to kind of plan for that long term."

While the Lions are going to unusual lengths to see to it that Stafford makes it through the season, Stafford, even with the time off he's had, said he feels good about where he and the offense are midway through August.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hands off to Kerryon Johnson during training camp Sunday, August 4, 2019 in Allen Park.

The Lions have scored just three points on offense in the first half of their first two preseason games (and another seven on a fumble return), but they've been without other key contributors as well. None of the Lions' top three receivers, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay or Danny Amendola, played Saturday against the Texans, and backup quarterback Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the first-quarter of the Patriots game, leaving David Fales and Josh Johnson to play the last seven-plus quarters of football.

"I think we still have a lot of things to clean up, a lot of details, as does every team in the preseason," Stafford said. "I’ve been a part of some preseasons where, man, I’ve felt like we were lighting it up on offense and then maybe the season didn’t go that way, and then I’ve felt opposite where we’re like, man, it’s struggling to put points up and then you go and put a bunch of points up in the season.

"So I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got a lot of guys, a great group of guys that are pushing to try and get better every day and that’s what it boils down to. Whether you have a great preseason or you don’t, or a great Week 1, it’s all got to be pushing towards peaking at the right time."

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

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