With a faint chance to move up to the No. 2 playoff seed, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell committed quickly to playing his starters in Week 18 against the Minnesota Vikings. How long key players would play was not precisely quantified, but until further notice the Lions' best guys would play.
Tight end Sam LaPorta entered the game with a couple catch records in play. One catch would give him the NFL record for receptions by a rookie tight end, and three would put him past Brandon Pettigrew for the single-season catch record by a Lions' tight end. He was on the injury report with an ankle issue after being injured last week, but he did not have an injury designation for Sunday's game.
Once LaPorta had the catches he needed to set those marks, the argument to take him out of the game would get stronger if his ankle was at all a thing. By the second quarter, he had set both records.
Sam LaPorta leaves game vs. Vikings with a bad-looking knee injury (video)
On his fifth catch of Sunday's game, LaPorta was tackled and suffered a bad-looking left leg injury. Disclaimer: the clip below is graphic.
LaPorta was able to walk, however very gingerly, off the field under his own power. He immediately entered the blue medical tent, then he was carted to the locker room.
With that, he was quickly ruled questionable to return. Then, soon after halftime, LaPorta was unsurprisingly ruled out for the rest of the game.
In her report coming out of halftime, FOX sideline reporter Pam Oliver said she asked Campbell if LaPorta had suffered a knee injury (since the team has announced he did). The Lions' head coach deferred to further testing that will come on Monday, which will surely be to confirm the extent of the injury, not that the injury is to his left knee.
Update, 6:00 p.m. ET: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that an MRI showed a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise for LaPorta.
LaPorta seems sure to be facing a multi-week absence, regardless of how bad his injury is. So now the debate ramps up about Campbell's decision to play starters on Sunday, or if LaPorta should have been pulled once he reached his record catch numbers.