Can added bulk protect Stafford's shoulder?

Those who watched Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throw last week were in unanimous agreement. As Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com put it, Stafford "is much thicker through the chest than he's been the last two seasons."

StaffordStaffordStafford agreed, saying he emphasized upper-body strength working over the winter. Many NFL players bulk up in the offseason, but the obvious next thought is whether the extra muscle can limit the possibility of shoulder separations moving forward. Stafford suffered three such injuries in his first two NFL seasons.

I reached out to ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell for some context. The bottom line: Stafford's work this winter won't hurt, but there is no fool-proof antidote for the injuries he has suffered.

"If you land the right way on the point of your shoulder, it's going to separate," Bell said. "If you have muscle bulk around your shoulder, there's probably a better chance of that soft tissue absorbing some of the load, presuming you land on that. But if you take that angle, and if you're accelerated into the ground by a tackle and your arm is held down at your side, it can still separate."

More important than the upper-body work, Bell said, was the surgery Stafford had to repair the right shoulder once and for all.

"Overall, there's probably less concern about re-injury," Bell said. "And there may be a confidence factor, too. If you feel stronger and more confident in your body, that can be a help returning to a sport where you've suffered some big injuries when you've taken big hits."