Lions QB Stafford says he'll practice with starters this week

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is on the verge of returning -- and not a moment too soon for his team.

The second-year pro told the "Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday that he expects to be under center Oct. 31 against the Washington Redskins, following the Lions' bye week.

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Stafford, who hasn't played since hurting his throwing shoulder during the season opener, was the Lions' No. 3 quarterback in Sunday's 28-20 loss to the New York Giants. He almost had to play after Shaun Hill left with a broken arm and Drew Stanton was banged up, too. Stanton was able to continue.

Stafford said he will join his team at practice this week and start preparing for the Redskins game.

"I'm going to take all the snaps with the ones (the starters) this week," Stafford said.

Stafford told NFL Network's "Around the League" later Tuesday that he has made enormous progress and is looking forward to being back on the field.

"My shoulder's getting better. I've been doing a lot of rehab and throwing a little bit," he said. "And hopefully this week I'll practice with the guys every day and then move that right on to next week and be ready for the game against the Redskins, hopefully. ...

"The pain's going away, and my range of motion and strength is coming all back. That's what we've been looking for from the beginning, and now that's coming back to me, hopefully I can get back out there and play on Sundays."

Although Lions coach Jim Schwartz spoke cautiously Monday, he left no doubt that he'd like to see Stafford taking snaps in the next game.

"You never know exactly how someone is going to respond to an increased workload," Schwartz said. "Hopefully we can keep him on track and we can be smart about how we use him and get him ready for that, but that's definitely the plan."

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Schwartz has been guarded about Stafford's condition ever since he was hurt in Chicago last month. Hill started the last five games, but he hurt his non-throwing arm Sunday.

Stanton came on and threw for 222 yards against New York, but he also was dinged late in the game. Stafford -- the emergency quarterback -- actually jogged on the field, but Stanton motioned that he was OK. Stafford remained a spectator.

"We were still in a situation where any hit on his throwing shoulder was going to set him back," Schwartz said. "We're close to getting past that scenario."

Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, played in 10 games last season, missing two in October with an injured right knee and the last four with a sore left shoulder. The Lions (1-5) have struggled without him this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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