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NOTEBOOK: LaPorta 'optimistic' about playing Sunday

Lions head coach Dan Campbell said early in the week there was an outside chance Pro Bowl tight end Sam LaPorta could play Sunday night against the Rams after injuring his knee Week 18.

LaPorta seemed a little more optimistic when speaking to reporters Thursday in front of his locker.

"Starting to feel better day by day," he said after working off to the side of practice and running routes after practice. "See where it takes me tomorrow. Really just taking it a day at a time. When it first happened, it didn't feel great, and I feel like I've started to bounce back quickly, and we'll see."

LaPorta's left knee hyperextended awkwardly after making a catch in the win vs. Minnesota last week. He left the game and did not return. He avoided any structural damage, but bone bruises can be finicky and it will come down to pain tolerance and function ability.

LaPorta, 22, is having one of the best rookie seasons for a tight end in NFL history. He topped Keith Jackson (1988) for the most receptions in a season by a rookie tight end (86). He had 86 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. He finished fourth among all tight ends this season in receptions, fifth in yards and first in touchdowns.

"Yeah, I'm optimistic," LaPorta said of playing Sunday night. "It was certainly a little scary when it first happened. I think everyone has probably seen a picture of it. There was definitely a sigh of relief when I found out structurally everything was good."

LaPorta said he was taking the same blocking reps he'd do in the individual portion of practice off to the side and ran some routes with quarterback Jared Goff after practice. He said if he plays he'll play with a knee brace as to not hyperextend the knee again, but said it won't hinder his movement at all.

"I'm working through it," LaPorta said. "That's the best way to say it."


When a team has the kind of success the Lions have enjoyed this season it usually draws the attention of other teams going through a transition with head coach and general manager openings.

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has drawn interest from Washington, Carolina, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers seeking to interview him for their open head coaching jobs. Johnson said it's an honor to be considered but he hasn't thought about it all week. His full attention is on the Rams' defense.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has interview requests from Atlanta, Tennessee, Washington and the Los Angeles Chargers.

"I'm flattered by the interview requests, I really am," Glenn said Thursday. "And man I do not want this to sound like coach-speak, but I try to focus on the main thing for this team, for this organization, because this is a big deal for us."

If the Lions were to lose Glenn to a head coaching job this offseason the team would be awarded a third-round compensatory pick in each of the next two NFL Drafts as the league has put an emphasis on developing minority candidates into head coaches.

"Yeah, look, I mean both of them know – they know this, it's all about us right now, and it's about the team, and they're very much invested in this team," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week. "Their opportunities will come. You can't do anything this week. So, it's just that. Stay focused on what it is right now, and that time will come if you interview with these organizations."

Per NFL rules, Johnson and Glenn cannot interview virtually for jobs until after the Wild Card round of the playoffs and must wait until the week of Jan. 22 for an in-person interview.

"Of course, I want that for them, but it's about us right now and look, both of those guys are worthy, more than worthy, to be head coach candidates," Campbell said. "They are two of the best that you're going to find, I believe that. But until then, they're with us and I don't want to lose either one of them, but that's the way it goes."

Lions COO Mike Disner has reportedly been requested to interview for the open GM job in Carolina.

"I mean there's a number of things that he's dealt (with)," Campbell said of Disner. "Two years ago, a ton of it dealt with the cap, structuring of contracts, free agency and then it's just grown from there. Certainly, Rod (Wood) has groomed him to be a little bit more and he's got oversight in a lot of the administrative portion of what we do here.

"But he's been outstanding. I mean he's worthy of a shot. And so, we're happy for him too, but there again, the focus is on us right now and I'm not going to go off of that and look, as long as Rod's here, we're golden. So, life's good."


Ask any quarterback who has ever played the position and almost every one of them will say the worst pressure they can see is the pressure right up the middle in their face. It's the quickest and most direct route to the quarterback.

It's something Johnson, quarterback Jared Goff and the interior of Detroit's offensive line is going to have to deal with Sunday night against the Rams terrific tackle duo of Aaron Donald and Kobie Turner.

"The combination of him with this rookie has been, probably the best defensive tackle tandem we've faced all year, so it is, it's different," Johnson said. "Feel good about the plan that we have going in right now. And listen, you try to minimize (Donald's) opportunities to get one-on-ones, but it's hard, it's hard. He feasts almost every week by getting one-on-one matchups and beating the guy across from him, so we will be very much aware of where he is on the field and try to adjust accordingly."

Turner leads the Rams with 9.0 sacks and has the fourth best defensive grade by Pro Football Focus among all rookie defenders this season. Donald, who has 8.0 sacks, is a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer.

The Lions counter with the best center in football in Frank Ragnow, a Pro Bowl left guard in Jonah Jackson and a veteran right guard in Graham Glasgow. That trio has allowed five sacks between them all season. The Lions will need the very best from all three in this matchup Sunday night.

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