DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta may have been a casualty of coach Dan Campbell’s decision to play all his starters in hopes of his team making a modest improvement in its playoff position.
LaPorta limped off the field after appearing to hurt his left knee against Minnesota on Sunday and was later taken toward the locker room on a cart.
“It’s not as bad as it looked, but it’s not good news,” Campbell said after his team closed the regular season with a 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. “We’ll know more (Monday). I know it looked awful.”
The Lions secured the No. 3 seed in the NFC by winning a division title for the first time in three decades. They needed Dallas to lose later Sunday at Washington to move into the No. 2 spot, but the Cowboys didn’t cooperate, breezing past the last-place Commanders 38-10. Detroit will host the Los Angeles Rams and former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the wild-card round of the playoffs next Sunday night.
“You’re either all in or all out,” Campbell said.
LaPorta’s injury is potentially a big blow for the NFC North champions. His left leg was bent awkwardly after he caught a pass and was tackled by Vikings safety Josh Metellus late in the first half Sunday.
The Pro Bowl player was evaluated in a tent on the sideline before being taken away from the playing surface for further evaluation.
LaPorta had 86 catches, an NFL record by a rookie tight end that surpassed Keith Jackson’s 81 receptions in 1988 with the Philadelphia Eagles. The second-round pick from Iowa also had 889 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.
“You can’t replace that chemistry,” quarterback Jared Goff said.
He had five receptions for 29 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown that broke a scoreless tie midway through the first quarter against the Vikings.
LaPorta also broke a franchise record for catches by a tight end with three more than Brandon Pettigrew had in 2011. He and Odell Beckham Jr. are the two rookies in NFL history who had at least 86 catches and 10 touchdown receptions.
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