ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) – Matthew Stafford sat at his locker, answering and dodging questions about his sore shoulder.
The Detroit Lions quarterback then took off his jersey and displayed a sense of humor.
“Look at that,” Stafford joked.
He will have to do more than raise his dislocated left shoulder and throwing arm to get clearance for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers.
“It’s unlikely that he’s going to play, but we’ll see,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “It’s a deal if it gets better in a couple of days and it’s not as painful, he’ll be able to get out there.”
The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, the guy who set an NFL record on Sunday in a thrilling 38-37 win over Cleveland, had to sit and watch his teammates go through their only full practice of the week on Tuesday. So did standout receiver Calvin Johnson, who has hand and knee injuries.
Even if Stafford isn’t on the field, he has given long-suffering fans a reason to have hope the future will be better. Previous first-round picks Joey Harrington, Andre Ware and Chuck Long failed to deliver for a franchise that has one Pro Bowl QB – and one playoff victory – since winning the 1957 NFL title.
The 21-year-old Stafford set an NFL rookie passing record with 422 yards passing against the Browns on Sunday and became the youngest player to throw five TDs in a game.
The fifth TD came with no time on the clock, after Stafford went to the sideline and was flat on his back getting his shoulder evaluated. He came back out for the game-winning throw with his right arm after his left shoulder was slammed to the turf on the previous play.
That Stafford went back on the field won praise from teammates and opponents while generating a positive buzz the Lions haven’t had since they were 6-2 in the 2007 season.
Stafford’s feats earned him NFC offensive player of the week honors.
“If this franchise is ever going to turn the corner, the list of quarterbacks it has gone through has to stop with him,” said center Dominic Raiola, who has endured a 33-105 record since Detroit drafted him in 2001. “I think he took the big step last game, getting a signature win after being down by 21 and throwing an interception late in the game and running a 2-minute drill without any time-outs.”
Stafford led the Lions’ biggest comeback in a game since 1957 when Bobby Layne helped them rally from a 24-point deficit against the Colts. Stafford and Layne both attended Highland Park High School in Texas.
As much as Schwartz has been encouraged by Stafford’s talent and moxie, he is not ready to say his gutsy play at the end of Cleveland game put him on another level.
“Let’s let him play more than one year before we start talking about that,” Schwartz said.
It did, though, impress a peer.
“I think it showed a lot of heart, a lot of toughness,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I think he played a very good game, and to be able to go back out there after he looked like he had a serious injury was very admirable.”
Stafford’s jersey from Sunday was sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And the play might live on in league lore for years because Stafford was wired for sound by NFL Films during the game, making him one of 350-plus players who have done that since 1965. NFL Films president Steve Sabol called it the “most dramatic player wiring ever.”
As for Stafford, he’s just hoping to get over the soreness and back on the field.
“It’s getting better,” Stafford said of his shoulder. “It’s moving in the right direction.”
Maybe the Lions are, too.