Based on his earlier comments about players resting, and with a faint chance to bump to the second playoff seed, it was no surprise when Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said starters would play in Week 18. The question was how long, and on Sunday the Lions' starters played the whole game even if their workload was a bit reduced in some cases.
Of course with that approach to play starters in a game that carried at best a to-be-determined meaning based on results later in the day come risking injuries to key players. In the second quarter, tight end Sam LaPorta suffered a pretty bad looking left knee injury.
Campbell would not even fully acknowledge that LaPorta had suffered a knee injury when FOX sideline reporter Pam Oliver asked him coming out of halftime. But the team announced it was a knee injury, and it's really just a matter of how severe it is and how much time LaPorta might miss.
After the game, Campbell was similarly vague but not exactly optimistic about LaPorta pending further tests on Monday.
Detroit Lions: A nice fit to replace Sam LaPorta is actually out there
It seems certain LaPorta will miss next week's Wild Card Round game, at minimum. And we can also say the Lions tight end depth chart, with or without Brock Wright, who has missed the last three games with a hip injury, is pretty barren. No one of note is available right now, and LaPorta is basically irreplaceable at this point anyway,
On the idea that no one of note is available, not so fast.
After the game on Sunday, with the idea LaPorta is in line to miss time, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero offered up a potential fit for the Lions.
Zach Ertz, at 33 years old, is not the player he was at his peak. But he had a fairly productive start this season with the Arizona Cardinals, with six catches in three of the first four games. He was an easy trade candidate, then he asked for and was granted his release after seven games.
Ertz has not retired, by all accounts he was/is healthy and he has said he wants to join a contender. The Lions are certainly a contender, headed to the playoffs. They are lined up to have a need for a veteran tight end, and as Pelissero noted Lions' tight ends coach Steve Heiden held the same post in Arizona from 2019-2022 (overlapping with Ertz after he was acquired from the Eagles in 2021).
LaPorta's ultimate prognosis will drive any interest the Lions have in adding a tight end to the roster, Ertz or anyone else. But should they need to replace their stud rookie, Ertz is a pretty nice-looking fit at a time of the year when available notable moves are practically non-existent.