Lions TE Sam LaPorta To Play In Wild-Card Round

JANUARY 14: Per Rapoport and NFL Network colleague Tom Pelissero, LaPorta now has more than an outside shot to play in tonight’s wild-card contest against the Rams. The duo report that while LaPorta was limited in practice and will likely require a brace on his leg, he is “trending in the right direction to play.”

JANUARY 8: When speaking about the LaPorta injury on Monday, Campbell said the standout rookie has “an outside shot” to play against the Rams in the wild-card round (h/t Justin Rodgers of the Detroit News). He added that the Lions will not add a tight end during the week, so LaPorta can be expected to miss only the coming game at the most.

JANUARY 7: Sam LaPorta is putting a bow on what will go down as one of the greatest rookie seasons for a tight end of all time. He hoped to put up 35 receiving yards today in order to pass Jeremy Shockey for the third-most receiving yards for a rookie tight end in NFL history, but he ultimately fell six yards short after suffering a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise in the Lions’ season finale, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. According to his head coach, Dan Campbell, while the injury is not as bad as it could’ve been, he’s likely to miss some time.

LaPorta has been a pivotal part of the Lions’ first playoff season in seven years. While running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs held down the running game, LaPorta paired up with wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds to provide quarterback Jared Goff with a formidable receiving trio. LaPorta finished the year second on the team in receptions and receiving yards while matching St. Brown on the year with 10 receiving touchdowns.

If Campbell is accurate and LaPorta is forced to miss time in the playoffs, Detroit is going to have trouble replacing the production lost during LaPorta’s absence. Third-year tight end Brock Wright is the team’s second-leading receiving tight end, and he only has 91 yards on the year. Last year, when Wright started 10 games after the departure of T.J. Hockenson, Wright recorded only 18 receptions for 216 yards, though he did prove to be formidable in the red zone with four touchdowns.

The only other tight end to receive even a target for the Lions this season was second-year tight end James Mitchell, who caught his only two targets for 28 yards in the last two weeks. Wright and Mitchell will be asked to step up when the Rams come to town next week for Super Wildcard Weekend. The Lions also hold veteran fullback/tight end Anthony Firkser on the practice squad.

Luckily, though, it sounds like LaPorta avoided the worst-case scenario, which could’ve seen him missing time all the way into next year. Instead, the Lions will hold out hope that LaPorta will be able to make a return sometime during the playoffs, on the off chance that Detroit can win their first playoff game since 1992.

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