Matthew Stafford won’t play vs. Bears because of fractured bones in back, per reports

CHICAGO — It appears as if Matthew Stafford’s starting streak is coming to an end.

ESPN and NFL Network reported Sunday morning that Stafford will not play in today’s game against the Chicago Bears because of a back injury.

According to ESPN, Stafford has “fractured bones in his back” and has not been cleared to play by team doctors.

Last year, Stafford played through a fractured process — the bony projection off each vertebrae — in his back. He said Wednesday his most recent injury is not related to that injury.

Stafford suffered this injury when he was hit in the upper back while scrambling in last week’s loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Jeff Driskel is expected to start at quarterback for the Lions, with David Blough as a backup.

Matthew Stafford leaves the field after the Detroit Lions won 18-13 over the Oakland Raiders at Ford Field, Nov. 22, 2015.

Driskel, the subject of interest from at least one team at last month’s trade deadline, made five starts for the Cincinnati Bengals last year, completing 59.7% of his passes and throwing six touchdown passes against two interceptions.

The Lions signed Driskel in September, after he was waived-injured by the Cincinnati Bengals, and acquired Blough in an August trade with the Cleveland Browns.

Stafford has been a regular on the Lions’ injury report since two days before the team’s Sept. 27 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, when he popped up with a hip injury that left him questionable to play in that weekend’s game.

He’s appeared on every Lions’ injury report since, but was a full participant in practice until this week, when he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday-Friday.

Stafford downplayed the extent of his current injury Wednesday, when he said he planned to play against the Bears.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I’ll be good to go. I’m not really worried about it. Something different (than the hip injury), but I’m totally good.”

Stafford has started every game over the last eight-plus seasons, since missing most of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury.

His streak of 136 consecutive starts is second only to Philip Rivers (218 starts) among quarterbacks, and it’s something he’s taken immense pride in.

“It means a lot, obviously,” Stafford said last week. “I just want to be out there for the guys. It doesn’t mean anything other than just I want to be available for those guys. I was actually texting Matt (Ryan) last week trying to figure out if he was going to go or not. I’m buddies with him, just I wanted him to keep history going because I know he is a tough guy that has played through a lot in his career, and (he) just wasn’t able to do it.”

Ryan’s streak of 154 consecutive starts came to an end last month because of an ankle injury.

Stafford has played through injuries whenever possible during his career, including previously against the Bears at Soldier Field.

In 2016, Stafford tore ligaments in the middle finger on his right (throwing) hand during a 20-17 win over the Bears and stayed on the field to lead the Lions’ comeback. Stafford banged hands with Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd in the first quarter of that game, and played the rest of the way with a glove on his hand.

In 2011, Stafford fractured the index finger on his right hand in a game against the Denver Broncos and threw four interceptions in first game after the injury, against the Bears in Chicago.

As a rookie, Stafford missed six games with knee and shoulder injuries, and in 2010 he separated his throwing shoulder twice and eventually required surgery, missing 13 games.

Stafford’s last missed start came 3,234 days ago, on Jan. 2, 2011.

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