Allen Park – Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn’t missed a start since 2011, a streak that doesn’t look likely to end Sunday.
Stafford, who injured his throwing hand in last week’s loss to the Ravens, ramped up the activity during the open portion of Thursday’s practice and resumed throwing.
While rotating in at quarterback during drills, he tossed an array of short passes to running backs in the flat and showed his touch on corner fades in goal-line situations.
Stafford still had his pinky and ring fingers individually taped on his throwing hand and handed the ball off with his left hand, but the increased activity was a positive sign after he didn’t throw at all during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice.
Stafford sustained the injury when he was accidentally stepped on by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs following a fourth-quarter interception. Stafford said he experienced “burning nerve pain," while X-rays were negative and revealed nothing was broken.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said before practice Thursday there’s still no timetable for determining Stafford’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“When he’s ready (we’ll make a decision),” Caldwell said.
Jake Rudock replaced Stafford after suffering the injury in Baltimore and threw a pick-six on his first drive. Rudock also took first-team reps Wednesday at practice, while Stafford was limited.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he won’t create two separate game plans in the event Stafford can’t play. Instead, he said the team would “adjust as we go.”
“I think anytime in this league when the starting quarterback is not playing offenses change traditionally in this league,” Cooter said. “So, we would adjust to play to Rudock’s strengths, and obviously he hasn’t had a ton of experience, he’s a younger player. We would adjust as needed, but we’ll evaluate that as needed.”
Stafford has a history of playing through pain as well as injuries to his throwing hand.
Last season, he played with a sprained middle finger in the final three regular-season games and in the wild-card playoff game. The Lions lost all four games as he averaged 271.3 yards and completed 59.4 percent of his passes (94-for-158) with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
In 2011, he played through a broken finger, but threw nine picks during a three-game stretch where the Lions went 1-2.
When asked how Stafford’s injury might limit the offense, Cooter said “we’ll evaluate it and do the best thing to win the game.”
“I’m not going to speak to specific injuries, but every one’s a little bit different,” Cooter said. “Every one affects a guy a little bit different and we’ll just make sure we’re doing the best thing for our team as we keep an eye on everything.”
But with Stafford’s toughness embodied in his streak of 108 consecutive starts, there’s reason to believe he’ll make it to 109 on Sunday.
“Hopefully he's ready to go,” defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “I'm not exactly sure what the role is for him and what the timeline is for him. But I do know it's a crucial game so if I had to bet on it, then I bet he will be out there.”
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle), guard T.J. Lang (foot) and tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) all missed practice for the second straight day.
Running back Ameer Abdullah (neck), cornerback/return man Jamal Agnew (knee), tackles Corey Robinson (foot) and Emmett Cleary (ankle), center Travis Swanson (knee), defensive end Cornelius Washington (shoulder) and Stafford (hand) were limited participants.