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NOTEBOOK: LaPorta back at practice Friday after missing Thursday

Opponents haven't had much luck so far in slowing down Detroit Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, and it doesn't appear a minor calf strain will be able to slow him down either.

After sitting out Thursday's practice with the injury, LaPorta was back on the field for the Lions during the open portion of Friday's practice and looked to be moving fine.

"Yeah, he just had a little bit of a strain," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of LaPorta before practice on Friday. "Don't know, we'll know more today. He was out in walkthrough (Friday morning), so we'll see what he looks like out here."

LaPorta has 25 receptions for 289 yards and three touchdowns through his first five NFL games. Through five weeks he leads all NFL tight ends in receiving yards and his 25 catches are the fourth most. He also has the most first-down receptions (14) and 25-yard-plus receptions (3) among tight ends this season.

His ability to practice Friday is a good sign for his availability for Sunday in Tampa Bay as long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks.

The news wasn't as good for running back Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring), tight end James Mitchell (hamstring), guard Jonah Jackson (ankle) and defensive back Brian Branch (ankle). All four missed their third straight practice this week and at this point seem unlikely to play Sunday. Branch was working off to the side of practice with trainers on Friday.

"I would say they're all doing better. Gibbs had a really good day two days ago," Campbell said. "And then we kind of gave him a breather yesterday, so he's doing good. Branch is getting better, but I can't say right now with any certainty whether we'll have them this week."

Second-year defensive lineman Josh Paschal was back at practice Friday for the first time in a month after suffering a knee injury. His return to practice starts his 21-day return-to-play window from IR.


The Bucs are coming off their bye week which means head coach Todd Bowles has had an extra week to prepare for Detroit's offense. Lions quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell said Friday there will be something Tampa Bay throws at them in terms of a look or a pressure on defense they haven't seen on tape. Detroit's ability to adjust on the fly will be critical Sunday.

"Coach Bowles has been around for a long time and he's one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and he has been given an extra week to prepare for us," Brunell said. "So, we anticipate seeing something different. Not a complete departure from what we see on tape but there will be a new wrinkle.

"There will be a different pressure. So, we have to be ready for that. The ability to adjust on the fly during the game is going to be very, very important. We have a lot of respect for coach Bowles and this defense. We are going to see some things we have not seen on tape."


Among punters with at least 10 punts this season, Jack Fox is one of just six players without a touchback. It's a part of his game Fox has really worked on over the offseason.

"I think just being more consistent as a punter, accuracy, ball placement, width of the punt has a big effect on downing the punt," Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said this week.

"You can make the gunners look a lot better the wider that punt is. The more it's down the middle, obviously they're lined up with width. They have to come back to the middle of the field makes it harder on them and takes longer for them to get there, obviously, they're running a longer line. But, so, there's a lot to the play, but yeah, mostly accuracy, consistency."

Fox's 50 percent rate of placing punts inside the 20-yard line this season ranks in the top six in the league. He continues to be a valuable weapon for the Lions.


Tampa Bay is expecting to get first-round pick Calijah Kancey back, who paired with veteran Vita Vea along the interior of the Bucs' defensive line gives them an interesting and diverse one-two punch inside.

Vea is a big, powerful nose tackle who can push the pocket and currently leads the Buccaneers with 3.5 sacks in four games. Kancey is a smaller, quicker interior rusher that drew comparisons to Aaron Donald in the pre-draft process.

Kancey has been battling a calf injury since the start of training camp and he aggravated the injury just 11 plays into Tampa Bay's Week 1 win vs. Minnesota and hasn't played since. Having a player like Kancey back can potentially open up opportunities for everyone else upfront.

"That's a total different one-two punch," Campbell said. "So, with Vita in there, man the ability to push the pocket is – I mean he's got that and then some. So, he can get an edge, he can push it and he's a hard guy to slow down.

"Kancey, when he was coming out, had really this dynamic rush ability, really quick first step, explosive athlete, certainly doesn't have the length or size as somebody like Vita, not that everybody does. So, it's a total different – it's a changeup and a guy like that on your guards, we've got to be really good man. We've got to be good with our sets. They're already a pretty good rush team and it brings another element inside that we've got to deal with."

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