On Saturday, the day players were finally allowed back into the practice facility, the Detroit Lions placed quarterback Matthew Stafford on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Stafford becomes the eighth Lions player to get the designation, which means he either tested positive or knowingly had been exposed to someone else who tested positive for the virus.
“You can’t go anywhere, you can’t do much, and we don’t know what the season — if there is one — is going to look like,” Stafford said during a video call with reporters in May. “Part of that is, you know, unsettling. …I just have to work and tell myself the season is going to happen on time. I’m preparing for it to be on time. If it isn’t, fine, I’ll get a little more work in before we start. And if it doesn’t happen, then I’ll deal with those ramifications when they come. I love playing football, I don’t know what I would do in a fall without it, as I think a lot of Americans would probably say the same. But being involved with the game, I love it, and I’m hoping it’s safe enough to for all of us to get back out there. I don’t want to put people at undue risk for us to go play a game, but at the same time, if we can find a way to make it safe for everybody, I’d love to obviously be out there as soon as we can.”
Lions players were tested three times this past week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. They had to test negative all three times to gain access to the practice facility, take a physical and begin a two-week acclimation period focused on conditioning.
Stafford landing on the list carries added weight because of additional risk factors with his immediate family. Wife Kelly underwent brain surgery last offseason to remove an Acoustic Neuroma tumor. The couple also welcomed their fourth child, Tyler, this summer. All four Stafford daughters are under the age of four.
“I think it’s in everybody’s interest to be as safe as you can possibly be, no matter if you’ve got a pregnant wife and kids at home or not,” Stafford said in May. “Obviously, nobody really knows. There’s not hard data on this yet, what it does to a pregnant woman, a baby or whatever it is. We’re just trying to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to limit our exposure and making sure we’re at home, doing everything the experts are telling us to do, as much as we possibly can, while trying to stay sane and still have a little bit of fun here and there.”
Stafford is coming off a season where he spent the final eight games on injured reserve due to broken bones in his upper back. Prior to the injury, he had started 136 consecutive games, the sixth most by a quarterback in league history.
The back injury derailed what was shaping up to be the best season of Stafford’s 11-year career. He was on pace to throw for 4,998 yards, 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also posted the best quarterback rating, yards per attempt and yards per completion of his career.
In addition to Stafford, the Lions have also placed wide receiver Kenny Golladay, tight end T.J. Hockenson, cornerback Justin Coleman, cornerback Amani Oruwariye tight end Isaac Nauta, safety Jalen Elliott and punter Arryn Sipposs on the league’s COVID-19 reserve list.