Veteran QB Culpepper given starting nod in Lions' third preseason game

DETROIT -- Everyone seems to be offering opinions on how the Detroit Lions should develop rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Three-time MVP Peyton Manning suggested the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft would be best served by being on the field.

2008 Statistics
Passer Rating: 63.9

Passing Yards: 786

TDs/INTs: 4/6

Former NFL head coaches Steve Mariucci and Mike Martz said they'd let Stafford get some seasoning on the sideline behind Daunte Culpepper.

Jim Schwartz hasn't played in an NFL game or been a head coach in one, but with all due respect, he doesn't really care what anyone outside of the team thinks about the topic.

"We're going to do what's best for our club," the first-year Lions coach said. "We're going to do what's best for the guy that we drafted, not what somebody outside of the building says and not what worked best for another player. Every player is different."

Schwartz insisted the competition to see who will take the first snaps in Detroit's Sept. 13 season opener at New Orleans is "wide open", even though he is starting Culpepper in the third preseason game.

"I don't want to handicap it one way or the other," Schwartz said. "But the final decision has not been made."

Culpepper will play into the second quarter against Manning's Indianapolis Colts before giving way to Stafford, Schwartz said Friday.

"As a competitor, I always want to play," Stafford said Thursday. "But I'm ready to do whatever they want me to do."

Culpepper and Stafford will finally have their top targets on the field in a preseason game.

Wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson, along with rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew, are expected to play against the Colts after being sidelined by injuries.

"Both quarterbacks will see time with all the wide receivers," Schwartz said.

Manning might end up playing more than normal because the Colts could only have one other option. Colts coach Jim Caldwell said backup Jim Sorgi likely will not play because of strained right hamstring. Besides Manning, rookie Curtis Painter is Indy's only other QB.

Manning looked ready for the regular season last week in a sharp showing against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Lions rookie safety Louis Delmas, a second-round pick, is looking forward to trying to match his hips and wits with Manning.

"It's going to be a physical and mental challenge because he's one of the best -- ever," Delmas said. "I can't wait to be on the field against him."

Manning credits the Colts with playing him right away when he was the No. 1 pick overall in 1998.

"I think if you don't play, I think you're going to have that uncomfortable game whatever it is you do," Manning said. "I think the sooner you do it, the better off you're going to be in the long run."

The New York Jets recently chose to start the season with first-round pick Mark Sanchez as their quarterback, one year after the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens made it to the playoffs with rookies under center.

"There are a lot of lessons to be learned from a lot of different players that played right away, that sat right away," Schwartz said. "But it's going to be our decision here.

"It's going to be based on the information we have at hand, not from wetting our finger and holding it up in the air, not from taking a poll and not from an 'ask the audience' lifeline or anything like that."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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