Sports

Lions QB Stafford rests 3 injured fingers early in practice

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, in Baltimore. Stafford was expected to test three banged-up fingers on his throwing hand in practice in the hopes of playing Sunday at Tampa Bay. Stafford’s right hand was stepped on in his last game, a loss at Baltimore that knocked him out of the game and put his team’s playoff outlook in peril. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, in Baltimore. Stafford was expected to test three banged-up fingers on his throwing hand in practice in the hopes of playing Sunday at Tampa Bay. Stafford’s right hand was stepped on in his last game, a loss at Baltimore that knocked him out of the game and put his team’s playoff outlook in peril. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matthew Stafford kept his injury under wraps.

Stafford covered his banged-up right hand in a huge, white towel while reporters had access to the Detroit Lions' locker room on Wednesday afternoon.

"I love that I have to do this for you guys," he said with a sigh.

At Stafford's weekly news conference earlier in the day, he was asked to show his injured hand.

"I'd rather not if that's OK," he said.

Stafford seemed to be resting the injured fingers on his throwing hand earlier in the day on the field. He did not throw passes when the media was able to watch the beginning of the practice and the Lions say he was limited, a step above not practicing at all.

His right hand was stepped on in Sunday's loss at Baltimore, knocking him out of the game. The next day, Stafford had bandages wrapped around his pinkie, ring and middle fingers.

"I was a little nervous walking off the field," he said. "Didn't really know what to expect, and what it was going to be. So, happy that nothing's broken in there."

While Stafford and the Lions were relieved that X-rays were negative, no one is declaring him good to go.

"He's not out of the woods yet," Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. "We'll kind of see what he can do as the week goes on. It's not like it's some insignificant injury. That's not the case. It's something that he's going to have to really work at and deal with here during the course of the week."

The Lions (6-6) face Tampa Bay (4-8) on the road Sunday, clinging to slim chances of earning a spot in the playoffs.

Stafford acknowledged he will have to test his hand in practice before he plays. He has started 108 straight games over six-plus seasons. That's the third-longest active streak among quarterbacks — trailing the Chargers' Philip Rivers (118) and Atlanta's Matt Ryan (127) — in the NFL.

"It'll be important to take a look at it and see how it's feeling, and hopefully get it progressing throughout the week," Stafford said.

His inexperienced backups are second-year pro Jake Rudock and rookie Brad Kaaya, who is on the practice squad.

Rudock gained valuable, if not painful, experience in a 44-20 loss against the Ravens. He went into the game late in the fourth quarter and completed his first three throws before throwing an incomplete pass and an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

"Nothing can prepare you for the speed of a regular-season game because it's a different animal from anything you can simulate otherwise," Rudock said. "It was nice to get my feet wet, but I wish I played better."

Stafford has proven he can play hurt, drawing respect from his teammates.

"If you ask him, 'How's your hand is doing?' He'll probably say, 'It's still attached. I'll see you out there,'" receiver Golden Tate said. "It's like jeez, 'How do you do it?' It's definitely something we notice and appreciate about him."

He was having one of his best seasons last season until an injured middle finger on his right hand along with stiffer competition stunted his and the team's success.

In 2011, he played with a broken index finger on his passing hand.

"Every one of them is different," Stafford said. "You got to kind of figure out what feels good, what doesn't, and go from there."

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