Matthew Stafford: Injured Again, Is He a Bust?

Jeremy Lookabaugh Correspondent ISeptember 15, 2010

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 12: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks for receiver against the Chicago Bears during the NFL season opening game at Soldier Field on September 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 19-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Matt Stafford's Injury 

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was knocked out of the season opener when Chicago's Julius Peppers sacked him Sunday, putting him on the sideline with a banged-up right shoulder-his third injury in two seasons. 

Stafford's father, John Stafford, said his son is going to visit well-known sports Dr. James Andrews this week. 

Initial reports were that the injury was a second-degree shoulder separation. Stafford could miss anywhere from four to six weeks, causing for him to get a second opinion. Stafford's throwing arm did not appear in a sling which is a great sign, and there is no timetable for his return. 

Shaun Hill Named Starter 

The Lions announced that they would start backup quarterback Shaun Hill on Sunday in the home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Hill made six starts for the San Francisco 49ers last season, going 3-3. The Lions traded a seventh-round pick to the 49ers in March to acquire the 30-year old Hill. 

He went 9 of 19 for 88 yards and an interception last weekend in place of Stafford. Hill had a pass to Calvin Johnson in the end zone ruled incomplete in one of the early seasons most controversial decisions. The Lions thought they scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the game. 

"He doesn't have a long period of being inactive, " Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. He's a veteran quarterback, he's been around a long time, he knows how to prepare, he knows how to be ready for those situations, he's been in that role before". 

Hill is a decent backup that can fill in while Stafford recovers from his right shoulder injury. He has traveled from team to team in the NFL, but he might find a home with the struggling Lions. 

The Lions are a team that can make some noise this year, but they will have to establish a solid running attack with rookie running back Javad Best. He accounted for both touchdowns in their 19-14 loss to the Bears. 

Is Stafford Injury Prone? 

Stafford missed six-games during his rookie season, because of a banged-up left shoulder and right knee. 

The Lions signed Stafford to a six-year contract and the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. The deal was for $72 million, with $41.7 guaranteed money. The contract could be worth as much as $78 million if Stafford achieves all of his playing incentives.

At that time, the deal was the richest deal giving to a draft choice in NFL history, exceeding the five-year $57 million contract the Miami Dolphins gave to Jake Long and the six-year, $72 million contract Matt Ryan received from the Atlanta Falcons. 

Last year, Stafford suffered a partially dislocated right kneecap, suffered a separated left shoulder and aggravated the shoulder causing him to spend the rest of the season on injured reserve. 

Stafford has been injured three times in only eleven career starts. This stat is alarming for a player that the Lions are investing their entire future in. The Lions are airing at a side of caution when determining the timetable of his return. 

"When he's healthy and feeling good, he'll be back on the field," Schwartz said. "We don't want to rush him back. We don't want to put him out there, if he's not able to make all the throws he needs to make to play quarterback". 

It is not fair to label Stafford as an injury-prone NFL player this early in his career. He has only been in the league for two seasons. He is a promising young quarterback that has a bright future ahead of him. 

There is no reason for the Lions to worry, yet. A couple years down the road, if Stafford is still struggling with injuries, then all that money invested in him could be for nothing.