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Carpet burns bumbling Lions

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

In the cursed and comedic annals of the Detroit Lions ā€“ the 0-16 campaign, the one playoff victory in 51 seasons ā€“ it makes perfect sense that their quarterback competition might be decided by a pile of Saxony.

Actually, we're not sure what kind of carpet Daunte Culpepper(notes) has at his house. We only know that Lions coach Jim Schwartz told the Detroit Free Press the veteran QB "sort of stubbed" his foot on some carpet and it required eight stitches. The bizarre injury may be enough to force Culpepper out of Thursday's preseason finale that was supposed to decide the starting quarterback's job.

Now rookie Matthew Stafford(notes), the No. 1 overall pick out of Georgia, is in strong position to take the job for Week 1. It's not like there's any other competition as third-stringer Drew Stanton(notes) is out with a knee injury too.

Tuesday at practice, the Lions used just one quarterback, Stafford.

"We put an ad on craigslist for a quarterback today for practice, but nobody answered," Schwartz joked.

Naturally he was forced to run a brief practice. Hey, it's not like the Lions need any extra work.

These are the things that happen to certain NFL franchises and Detroit is front and center on it. Not the only one, of course.

After all, Tuesday the Cincinnati Bengals, a bumbling unit itself, saw their high-risk, weight-challenged first-round pick, offensive lineman Andre Smith(notes), show up for his second day of practice after an extended hold out. He promptly broke his foot in a non-contact drill.

"It looks like he's going to miss a few weeks," Cincy coach Marvin Lewis told the media.

And the NFL wonders why it's staring at a season with so many potential television blackouts due to unsold tickets. It's not just the economy. It's that fans of certain franchises are wondering why they never get to be the Steelers or the Patriots, why carpet burns and bad draft picks keep happening?

The NFL's mantra is "Any Given Sunday," which is mostly true. Just not lately in Detroit, Cincinnati, Oakland and a few other locales where parity has turned to parody. These fan bases watch as strange incidents take their hope for the season and shatter it like an assistant coach's jaw at the receiving end of the head coach's fist.

It may turn out best for the Lions to just throw Stafford into the mix from the get-go. The team has lost its last 17 regular-season games, including the NFL's first 0-16 season in 2008. How much worse could it get?

No final decision has been made and no one knows how long Culpepper will be out. If Stafford is the only one left to play Thursday against Buffalo (the Lions signed two short-term free agents Tuesday) then you don't have to be a football savant to know the job appears to be his to lose. Since he's shown a strong arm even as he tossed a few misguided interceptions, his ascension to starter was inevitable.

The issue isn't that the Lions might end up with Stafford as its immediate starter. It's about how it went down.

Who cuts their foot on carpet?

"It wasn't cut," Schwartz said. "It stretched his foot, and it sort of tore up by the top where his toe is."

OK, who stretches his foot so it sort of tears up by the top where the toe (whatever that is) on carpet? Let alone someone who is athletically gifted enough to play 10 seasons in the NFL and, considering the salary he's earned, probably can afford some high-end threads?

Perhaps it's someone who plays for a franchise that in recent seasons had an assistant coach arrested for not wearing pants while in a Wendy's drive-thru, had a player who was cut accused of stealing the luggage of the guy replacing him and, in the ultimate bit of ridiculousness, employed Matt Millen.

Schwartz is a first-year coach for the Lions and like all first-year coaches for the Lions he looks at all the crazy stuff that happens to the franchise with a smile and the belief that it won't happen to him. A few years later the rest of them have left mumbling under their breath.

Tuesday, however, Schwartz wasn't above laughing about how the injury is so unlikely that maybe Stafford had broken into Culpepper's home and rigged up the rug as a way of knocking out his competition.

"Putting banana peels out and stuff like that," Schwartz said before dismissing the joke.

Stafford pled innocence to the Free Press, "There's no pushing down the stairs or whatever. I promise."

Maybe it was just Culpepper's way of avoiding being the Lions' starter.

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