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Updated: September 22nd, 2010 9:22am
Lions coach won't rule out Stafford, but Shaun Hill will start on Sunday

Lions coach won't rule out Stafford, but Shaun Hill will start on Sunday

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It may be a long shot, but Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz on Wednesday wouldn't rule out quarterback Matthew Stafford for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

"I think we're open-minded on that," Schwartz said in a conference call with two Twin Cities reporters when asked about the timetable for Stafford's return from an injured throwing shoulder.

"It just really depends on how he's feeling, and if he's feeling good and throwing well, can make all the throws, then we make that decision, and if he's not, then we hold him back. But it'll be judged on him and how he's feeling -- not an artificial timetable that we set before we even knew where we were going with it."

Asked specifically whether the Lions would take a look at Stafford this week, Schwartz said simply, "We'll see." UPDATE, 5:58 p.m.: Schwartz opened his media conference in Detroit by saying Stafford "is doing very well in his rehab, but Shaun (Hill) will start this game at quarterback." So there goes that.

Stafford injured the shoulder in the Lions' opener Sept. 12 at Chicago on a hit by Julius Peppers. One report said the Lions feared the former No. 1 overall draft pick would miss four to six weeks.

However, there is precedent for Stafford defying odds with injuries. As a rookie last season, he injured the same shoulder in a win over Cleveland on Nov. 22, stayed in to lead Detroit to victory and then -- despite a short week and being listed as doubtful on the injury report -- played four days later in a Thanksgiving loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Schwartz said the Lions will "be very judicious with him, because we're talking about his throwing shoulder, and when he's healthy and he's ready to go and can throw and make all the throws, he'll be back in there. But I think that we're pleased with where he is. He's working hard to get back on the field as soon as he can."

If Stafford can't go, the Lions once again will start Shaun Hill, the former Vikings third-stringer. Detroit acquired Hill in a March trade from San Francisco and re-signed him through the 2011 season in July.

"Shaun is probably a guy that not a lot of scouts are going to like coming out, because he doesn't have the strongest arm, he's not the most athletic, he's not the biggest, he's not the fastest," Schwartz said. "But what he does is he has a way of finding his team to the end zone, and he has a way of winning football games."

Hill, 30, completed 25 of 45 passes (55.6%) for 335 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions and a 75.7 passer rating in Sunday's 35-32 loss at Philadelphia -- only the eighth defeat for Hill in 18 career starts.

A onetime undrafted free agent, Hill played collegiately at the University of Maryland, where Schwartz once was an assistant coach. Hill spent five seasons as a backup with the Vikings and 49ers before getting his first shot to start with San Francisco in 2007.

"He didn't have an easy road in the NFL," Schwartz said. "I like that -- he earned his way up from the very bottom, being a third quarterback. He has starting experience. He has winning experience. He has great perspective. He understands his role. He knows exactly where he is with Matt Stafford. He's a smart guy, he's got a great personality, he's competitive and when our starting quarterback goes down, Shaun can come in and win games for us."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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