Last year it was his back. Last month it was his hip. Now it's his back again, with a virus wedged in between.
Matthew Stafford was limited at practice on Wednesday due to a back injury he apparently suffered in Detroit's loss to the Raiders. Per usual, he said it won't be a concern on Sunday, when the Lions visit the Bears desperate for a win.
Make no mistake, Stafford will be on the field Sunday in Chicago for his 137th consecutive start, the second longest streak among active quarterbacks. He's in the midst of the best season of his career, pacing the NFL with 312.4 yards per game. He ranks second with 19 touchdowns and fifth with a passer rating of 106.0.
The Lions, despite struggling to run the ball throughout the season, rank fifth in the NFL in total offense, and their quarterback is the main reason why.
“I think we’ve done a nice job in the play-action game, making some big plays," Stafford said. "Those (receivers) are making great plays down the field, the guys upfront are giving me time to get it down there. I think we’ve done a nice job on third down staying on the field, which helps."
The arrival of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has helped, too. He's utilizing Stafford's ability to throw the deep ball, and Stafford is averaging a career-best 8.6 yards per attempt. He leads the NFL in passes of at least 20 yards (41) and ranks fourth in passes of at least 40 yards (8).
It's the most dangerous the 31-year-old has looked since he threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011.
"I think our guys are doing a good job of getting behind people and winning downfield, which is giving me confidence to cut it loose to them," he said. "Obviously when the ball is in the air, they’re doing a great job of making plays. ‘Bev’ is doing a great job of scheming it up, we’re getting some guys with a step or two on deep defenders and able to connect.”
Bears head coach Matt Nagy knows his defense will have its hands full on Sunday.
"I’ve always had the ultimate respect for Matt Stafford," he said. "Some of the throws he’s made over his career are just ridiculous. There are not many players in the NFL that can make the side-arm throws that he does on the run, running left throwing right, just putting it where no one else can get it. He’s tough, he’s a competitor, and when he’s back there at the quarterback position he’s scary, because he can make any throw and you always have a chance with him.
"You take that and you combine (it with) these wide receivers that he has -- anybody that’s a hell of a quarterback like he is that has weapons at the wide receiver and tight end position, they’re always going to have success. You see that right now. They’re aggressive in the pass game, they’re taking shots – a lot of deep balls – and it’s definitely a cause for concern.”
As for the back injury, no concern for Stafford.