Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the Lions’ game against the Bills. Recorded Dec. 13, 2018.
Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

How bad is Matthew Stafford’s back injury? Bad enough to postpone his regular media session at least.

Stafford was limited for a fifth straight practice Thursday by an injury he suffered in the Lions’ Dec. 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and he spent so much time in the training room getting treatment after practice that he had to delay his weekly Thursday news conference.

Stafford, who threw for just 101 yards in last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals – his lowest total since the first game of the 2010 season – is now expected to meet with reporters on Friday.

He played last week against the Cardinals despite being listed as questionable on the Lions’ weekly injury report, and after showing noticeable signs of the injury throughout the week.

In the locker room after practice last Friday, reporters observed Stafford needing to bend at the knees to reach his equipment bag.

Stafford has struggled with turnovers and inconsistent play for much of this season, though he has maintained his ironman streak of 125 consecutive starts while keeping the Lions (5-8) on the fringes of the playoff race. Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan are the only active quarterbacks with longer starting streaks.

In 13 games this year, Stafford has thrown just 18 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions, and is averaging only 6.9 yards per attempt. The Lions have failed to score more than 20 points in six of their last seven games, and Stafford has one touchdown pass in the last three weeks — to left tackle Taylor Decker.

Stafford has taken a pounding this season — he has been sacked 37 times, including 10 times in a Week 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings — but has mostly stayed off the injury report until recently.

He played through a minor injury to the pinky finger on his left (non-throwing) hand against the Vikings, and downplayed the extent of his back injury last week.

Lions coach Matt Patricia, meanwhile, has repeatedly praised his quarterback’s toughness while offering little insight on his health.

“We have tough players on this team, starting with our quarterback,” Patricia said after the Rams game. “This guy’s one of the toughest guys we have.”

It’s unclear how Stafford injured his back against the Rams, though he was sacked four times in that game and took one late hit from Ndamukong Suh.

The Lions have given no indication of whether they’ll continue to play Stafford if they fall out of the playoff hunt.

The Philadelphia Eagles, according to multiple reports, are considering shutting quarterback Carson Wentz down for the year after tests revealed he has a fractured vertebrae in his back, an injury that will heal with rest.

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