Schwartz says Stafford would be injury prone if it was same issue

If Matthew Stafford had suffered the same injury in his rookie season that he has this season, the Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he wouldn’t have a problem with the “injury prone” label being attached to his quarterback.

As it is, Stafford is sidelined with a right shoulder injury that has been a reoccurring problem this season. Last year, as a rookie, Stafford missed time with a dislocated knee cap and then a left shoulder injury and he eventually landed on injured reserve.

It’s frustrating times for the Lions (2-9) who are trying to build their program around Stafford, even if Schwartz doesn’t approve of that label.

“I wouldn’t use the word frustrating,” Schwartz said. “It’s not ideal, obviously, when you’re drafting a guy No. 1 and you’re building around that particular individual. It’s obviously not according to plan but it happens in the NFL. We need to get over the hump and keep him out on the field. When Matt’s been on the field for us, he’s either left the game with the lead or he’s won the game. The only problem is he’s only been on the field for three games with us and he didn’t finish two of them.”

Schwartz compared Stafford to defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who missed much of his first three seasons in the league and is a dominant performer for the Lions. Comparing defensive linemen to quarterbacks is a stretch, though. You’re not building around an end. You’re not relying on him to make one side of the ball go. The Bears dealt with injuries to Rex Grossman in the first three years of his career. Did that stunt his growth? It would be impossible to say otherwise.

“A lot of the things, other than the Julius Peppers hit (in Week 1), every time Stafford got hurt it was a situation where it was late in the game where he was holding the ball or trying to make a make a play for the team to win,” Schwartz said. “(He) held the ball against Cleveland throwing it in the end zone on the last play of the game, he knew he was going to take that hit. Even Chicago last year early in the season, I think we were down, I want to say two scores, but it was late in the game, a field goal wasn’t going to help us. He needed to stay alive and get a touchdown and ended up hurting his knee.

“You know, against the Jets, same thing, he’s trying to scramble for a first down late in the game. If we get that first down, we might have a chance to seal that game a little bit earlier and instead he gets tripped up and lands right on his shoulder. So, I think all of those things are situations that come up. I think he’s going to have a great future and we look forward to getting him back on the field, hopefully this year.”

No one is saying Stafford is going to follow the Grossman career path, but Stafford needs to get back on the field this season to end 2010 on a positive note. Then, he needs to have an injury-free year and direct some success for the Lions.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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