Matthew Stafford's surprise appearance as an inactive Sunday is attracting further attention Monday.
The NFL is looking into the Lions' handling of Stafford's injury, which is standard practice with this type of matter, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.
Stafford spent the week leading up to Sunday's Lions-Bears game as a limited participant in practice and was listed as questionable for the contest with a back injury. It was unexpected, then, when Stafford ended up spending the game on the sideline in a hoodie and sweatpants as an inactive player instead of at least dressing for action.
Lions coach Matt Patricia attempted to explain what happened from Friday to Sunday and how it led to Stafford's change in status. The coach said Monday he knew Saturday night that Stafford probably wasn't going to play but was going to allow the quarterback to still dress Sunday if he wanted to, and meet with him one final time before the game to ensure they were on the same page.
"I just wanted to wait as long as possible," Patricia explained. "Out of respect for him and everything that he's done for this organization, I just wanted to leave the option open when we got to Sunday if he wanted to dress. I think that's important. I think it's important to a player. ... I wanted to leave him that option and therefore we'd make it official on Sunday morning if he wanted to dress."
And while this was the plan, the team arrived at it only after spending Saturday exhausting all options when trying to find a way for Stafford to play.
This information still doesn't bring full clarity to how Stafford went from a questionable member of the injury report to inactive, but Patricia's next explanation does. The coach said Stafford felt good in practice during the week, but Friday evening examination and evaluation of his back caused some concern, first placing his status in doubt. This came after the injury report had been filed.
"If you downgrade a player to out, then you can't make him active or dressed. I thought that would be more messed up, trying to get a guy to dress after we downgraded him to out," Patricia explained. "So, OK, let's take the night, let's go to bed, let's pick up tomorrow and see how we feel and then make a decision. That was my biggest concern there, if we downgrade him to out then I can't even have him dressed for the game and I wanted to leave that option.
"In the end, if we wait until the final minute because, out of respect for him, to walk in and be like 'no,' I've got to understand that."
Patricia went on to explain a past experience in which he had to inform an established, accomplished NFL player he was going to be inactive and he described it as very emotionally painful news to deliver. His desire to show respect to Stafford influenced his decision, he explained above, which is understandable.
Jeff Driskel replaced Stafford, who continues to be day-to-day and week-to-week with his back injury, according to Patricia. Stafford said later Monday that the decision for him to sit out was a collective one and ultimately the right one, per team senior writer Tim Twentyman.
The Lions fell to last place in the NFC North with Sunday's loss to Chicago, but they can still cling to faint postseason hopes if they start rattling off consecutive wins. That task, however, will be much tougher to complete without Stafford, making this situation worth monitoring in the days and perhaps weeks ahead.