Having played only 13 games over the past two seasons due to knee and shoulder injuries, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has had to fight the perception that he's a fragile, injury-prone player. Fairly or not, some fans and observers wonder whether he can make it through a full season.
But do any of Stafford's teammates feel the same way? Linebacker Zack Follett sounded as if he might in comments during a radio interview in Fresno on Tuesday.
"Stafford, good guy," Follett said. "He’s a china doll right now. Anytime he gets hit, he goes down. But the kid is -- hopefully, it’s just patiently waiting for him, because the kid is an awesome talent. He has a tremendous arm. The throws that he makes during practice when no one can touch him, he looks like an All-American quarterback, but put him in a game, and you hit his shoulder. So hopefully, say a couple prayers, keep him healthy next year, and the Lions can do some damage in the NFC."
Referring to Stafford, who had shoulder surgery last week, as a "china doll" could certainly be seen as derisive. It most certainly doesn't come across as a compliment. The question is if Follett was ripping a teammate publicly.
My initial thought when this was causing some buzz on Twitter was that Follett might be a typical defensive player who generally disdains quarterbacks (even those on his own team) and thinks they're coddled.
Follett had a chance to clarify his remarks Tuesday afternoon on 97.1, and said he meant that Stafford was more a victim of "bad luck." He doesn't question the Lions' quarterback's toughness.
"I'm glad we have Matt Stafford, instead of the Bears' quarterback. He goes in with separated shoulders and wins games. It definitely wasn't a knock on him. We just want to get him healthy. He's a competitor."
You can listen to the entire interview with Mike Valenti here.
If Follett is to be taken at his word, perhaps he didn't mean "china doll" as a criticism, and just didn't realize how those words might be interpreted -- especially when just about everything is dissected to create news. Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew may have a word with him (and maybe the rest of the team) about future dealings with the media.
But how much of this was an overreaction, really? And isn't it more fun when players are outspoken?
Do we really want someone like Follett, who's demonstrated some personality and rapport with the fans, to become just another cliche-spouting robot? ("Matt Stafford plays hard. Bzzt. Every given Sunday, you never know what could happen. Bzzt.") No, Zakarian -- get out there and knock Ndamukong Suh's dance moves or Schwartz's taste in music next.