Matthew Stafford's return might have to wait until 2011

Maybe Matthew Stafford will not be returning this season after all.

The Detroit Lions quarterback has been targeting a late-season return since separating his right shoulder for the second time back on Nov. 7 against the New York Jets.

Now, after coach Jim Schwartz ruled out the former top pick from Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, it’s become clear his next comeback might be put off until 2011.

“We're taking Matt's rehab as he feels and we never really put a timetable on it," Schwartz said, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "We've left the door open for a comeback. But being so close to the end of the season, it changes your thoughts a little bit, but we're not at that spot (ready to put him on IR) yet."

Stafford declined to talk about his situation, and Schwartz declined to say if he would pick Shaun Hill or Drew Stanton to play against the Dolphins. Hill got reps with the first team on Wednesday, and he’s returning from a broken knuckle in his right index finger.

The hope was Stafford would make it back this season if for no other reason than to get over the hump and end the season on a positive note. He finished his rookie season on injured reserve and – like it or not – Stafford is going to wear the brittle label until he can go through an NFL season unscathed. Whether or not that becomes a mental block for him remains to be seen. Some quarterbacks play the same in the pocket. Others can’t knowing the injuries they’ve been through. Stay tuned.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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