Matthew Stafford (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The Lions are trying to be coy about Matthew Stafford’s status for Sunday, and his injury. In the Vikings’ world, they fully expect him to play.
Shaun Hill came into Sunday’s game after starter Matthew Stafford went down with what has alternately been referred to as a hamstring or hip injury. Hill came in with nothing to lose and down 14 points. Everyone knew what he was going to do and, thanks to a tipped Hail Mary pass, he brought the Lions back and into overtime. From there, the Lions stumbled in what head coach Jim Schwartz said was miscommunication and what the play-by-play will forever record as a failed fourth-and-1 run.
In the intervening days, the extent of Stafford’s injury has intentionally been left in question by Schwartz, in hopes it will divert the Vikings attention away from Stafford’s tendencies, especially if his injury is such that he will likely be confined to the pocket.
No matter how you look at it, if Stafford plays – which is extremely likely given the gravity of the game, potentially dropping the Lions to two games behind the Vikings with a home loss in hand – Detroit has a much better chance of winning. But, if they can get their opponent to believe that they have to prepare their defensive game plan against backup Shaun Hill, a former Viking and dink-and-dunk specialist, it could take away from the preparation for Stafford.
And the chess game begins.
Leslie Frazier spoke with both the Detroit media and the local jackal pack Wednesday and his response to the exact same question was delivered in two very different ways.
When asked by the Detroit media if he thought Stafford was going to play, he was cagey. Bishop to Queen 4.
“I have no idea,” Frazier said. “No idea whatsoever.”
However, when Frazier spoke with the local Twin Cities media Wednesday, he had a bit of a different tune to hum. Knight in play (to the rest us, the horse is on the move).
“Yeah, we’ll prepare as if he’s going to start,” Frazier said. “We will, of course, look at tape on Shaun Hill as well, but we’re expecting Stafford to be the starter and then we’ll have to adjust if it’s Shaun Hill.”
When asked about Stafford’s place as a team leader who plays through injuries, Schwartz went Boris Spassky on it, diverting the question in a way that would make Brett Favre tip his ball cap in respect.
“Everything that you go through in this league is a learning process – whether you’re dealing with injuries, whether you’re dealing with a winning streak, a losing streak, good time, experience going against certain personnel, certain teams,” Schwartz said. “I don’t know any particulars, but everything in this league is a learning process.”
Read that quote again. One can only imagine Schwartz may have had a career opportunity in Vegas up-close magic. To complete the illusion, he lauded Hill as though Steve Young was waiting in the wings in relief of Joe Montana saying, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.” Is it a luxury to have a field general like Hill as the understudy to Stafford?
“I don’t consider it a luxury,” Schwartz said. “It was very important to us. When Shaun was a free agent this year, we made a very strong attempt to get him back because we know what he can do. The definition of backup quarterback is a guy that, if you lose a starter for whatever reason – if he wakes up with the flu, if he’s out for the year, he’s out for two, he’s out in the fourth quarter of the game and you’re down 14 points – the definition is you have to be able to go and give your team a chance to win. Shaun defines that.”
The coaches are doing their part. But perhaps Jasper Brinkley best stated the case for the players. Asked if the Vikings will do their preparation for Stafford to start Sunday, there was no question as to the answer.
“Definitely,” Brinkley said. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. If he can play, we expect to see him out there. Everyone is banged up at this point. We’ll do our work on (Hill), but we expect to see Stafford out there.”
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh is one of the five candidates for the Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week competition. He is joined by Seattle QB Russell Wilson, Indianapolis WR T.Y. Hilton, Washington running back Alfred Morris and Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck for the Week 3 honor.
Jason Hanson has kicked 10 field goals in his first three games of the 2012 season. It is the most field goals he has made in any three-game stretch of his career. That’s saying something, considering that Hanson is in his 21st season, which has had a lot of three-game stretches in it.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.