Matthew Stafford expects to play
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford lined up with the first team at practice Monday and showed no real sign of being limited by the injury to his non-throwing hand.
So that's one potential crisis averted for the Detroit Lions. Now, they're hoping for some improved health around the rest of the roster.
Detroit (tied for No. 11 in the AP Pro32) put running back Jahvid Best on the reserve-physically unable to perform list, meaning he'll miss at least the first six weeks of the season. Best hasn't played since October because of concussion problems.
"We just lose another explosive player," wide receiver Nate Burleson said. "Jahvid is one of the fastest individuals that I've ever played with. It's going to be tough to play without him. Hopefully he'll be able to come back and help us."
Running back Kevin Smith and cornerbacks Chris Houston and Bill Bentley didn't participate during the portion of practice open to reporters. Detroit's next preseason game is home against Buffalo on Thursday night.
Stafford left last weekend's preseason game at Oakland following a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter, but there was no sign of any cast on his left arm at practice.
Stafford threw for 5,038 yards last season, his first healthy one as a pro. He said he was initially a little scared by some swelling last weekend, but it turned out to be no big deal -- and he doesn't even really consider it an injury.
"I think the biggest thing for me was the fact that I had to come out of the game," Stafford said. "Had it been a regular-season game, I'm sure I would've found a way to get back on that field."
Oakland sidelined several more Detroit players. Bentley departed with a shoulder injury and Houston with a left ankle injury. Smith left with a right ankle injury.
"We'll see where they get to," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's likely that none of them will play Thursday, but we'll just see what kind of progression we can get them on. There's nothing that's really long-term with any of them."
Smith sounded relieved his injury wasn't more serious and said he would definitely be ready for the season opener Sept. 9 against St. Louis.
"No doubt," Smith said. "I feel better. I wasn't in a walking boot or anything like that. I've got all my movement."
The Lions can use a healthy Smith at the beginning of the season because running back Mikel Leshoure is suspended the first two games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
And nobody seems quite sure when Best might play again. After going on the PUP list, Best must miss six weeks. Then the team can activate him or start a 21-day practice window at any point in the next 21 days.
If he hasn't been activated by the end of the practice window, he must sit out the rest of the season.
"That's within the range of where the doctors wanted him to be," Schwartz said. "It's not an easy decision, but it made it an easier decision. We'll just wait and see. Like I keep saying, he's looked extremely good in all his physical stuff, and as soon as we can get him back and get clearance, we will."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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