Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media Monday a day after his team earned a franchise-tying 12th victory of the season over Minnesota to finish the regular season. Now Campbell and the Lions turn their focus to the playoffs where they host the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field Sunday night.
Here are all the key questions to come out of Campbell's Monday press conference:
The news Monday is much more promising than what it looked like after both players left Sunday's game with knee injuries and did not return.
"LaPorta has an outside shot now," Campbell said Monday of his potential to play Sunday night vs. the Rams. "We'll know a lot in 48 hours with him. He's got an outside shot. I think (Kalif) is in that boat, maybe a little bit farther away than LaPorta. But it's very much we're talking in days and not weeks, which is a good thing."
That's definitely encouraging news to potentially have a player in LaPorta who notched 86 receptions for 889 yards (10.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns during the regular season.
Campbell also said veteran Brock Wright is expected back at practice this week after missing the last month with a hip injury. If the Lions get him back for Sunday that would lessen the blow a bit if LaPorta can't go.
Who will return punts if Raymond isn't available?
Raymond has been Detroit's punt returner all season. His 11.4-yard average per return was sixth best in the NFL this season. He also chipped in 35 receptions for 489 yards and a receiving touchdown and seven carries for 75 yards.
Campbell said he and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp are still working through that but Donovan Peoples-Jones is a candidate for the role Sunday night if Raymond can't go. Peoples-Jones has 61 career punt returns in the NFL with a 7.9-yard average per return and a touchdown.
Campbell said Williams will be back at practice this week and should be good to go Sunday vs. the Rams. Williams has come on strong the last few weeks with 11 catches for 159 yards in games vs. Dallas, Minnesota and Denver. He sat out Sunday's game vs. Minnesota with an ankle injury suffered the week prior in Dallas.
Campbell wasn't as optimistic about Houston, who is still on IR rehabbing an ankle injury.
"Houston will be out there practicing, and we'll see," he said. "He'll be better than he was last week. How much is that? How good is that going to be? I don't know. I'm not as optimistic about him."
What jumps out to Campbell about the Rams' offense and defense?
On offense, Campbell said they are explosive in the passing game but what makes that even more dangerous now is the emergence of running back Kyren Williams (1,144 rushing yards) in their gap scheme and how his threat running the ball opens up more play action windows and the ability for quarterback Matthew Stafford to push the ball down the field.
On defense, he said the Rams play fundamentally sound, led by veteran defense tackle Aaron Donald, and they don't make a lot of mistakes.
The Rams have won seven of their last eight games with the only loss in overtime against Baltimore.
"Look, it's no secret why they've won whatever it is seven of their last eight games," Campbell said. "They are doing it for a reason. This is one of the hottest teams coming in right now."
What does Campbell like about Sunday's matchup with the Rams?
Campbell said he was excited when he learned they'd be hosting the Rams Sunday. He said he loves the newness of it.
"It's a fresh team," he said. "It's somebody we haven't seen in three years. I like that. I just kind of like the newness of it. This is when it gets really fun. This is why you do it. This is why you coach and why you play. It's for these moments right here."
How does Campbell keep a normal week of preparation while embracing the magnitude of the moment?
"You don't change who you are or what you've been doing," Campbell said. "I think a number of things that we do anyway have been – everything is about getting ready for this moment. I don't let things get stale. I get bored in a hurry.
"I think you add that with the schedule we've had. We've changed everything, you're constantly asking alright, 'What time are we coming in at? When are we doing this? What time is this? I think there's been a little bit of, not chaotic, just enough to where, man, you're constantly having to stay on your toes, evolve, move. We're never in the same place twice. So, I just think that this team is prepared for what's next.
"I think it's about the next challenge and I think that's all you do, man. You treat it like any other week and go do your job."
Campbell said once the players get in the game, the ones that have been in the playoffs will know the intensity level goes up and the ones that haven't been there before will learn really quick and players will naturally fall right in line with the elevated intensity level.
One of Campbell's big talking points this week will be not to press. Don't worry about making mistakes and just do what they did all year to get them to this point.