Lions Waive Promising TE After Major Injury in Training Camp

Shane Zylstra

Getty Shane Zylstra catches a pass for a score in 2022 for the Lions.

The Detroit Lions are waiving Shane Zylstra one day after the tight end suffered what appears to be a season-ending injury.

The Lions announced the move on August 1, following a knee injury that the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport described as “serious and significant.” Zylstra was set to vie for position in a crowded tight end room and build off the promise he showed last season, including a three-touchdown game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14.

Zylstra was hurt after taking a low hit from Lions cornerback Khalil Dorsey, a play that drew some controversy.

“Shane Zylstra taken to the locker room with a right let injury after getting hit low by cornerback Khalil Dorsey,” tweeted Detroit News reporter Justin Rogers. “Not an illegal hit, but definitely not the kind you want to deliver against a teammate in practice.”

Lions Expected to Retain Shane Zylstra

The Lions could still have plans for Zylstra beyond this season. As Jeremy Reisman of SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit noted, the 26-year-old tight end is expected to clear waivers so he can potentially return to the team.

“Zylstra will now be subject to waivers, but given the seriousness of his injury, he will almost certainly clear without being claimed,” Reisman wrote. “After that, he will revert to Detroit’s injured reserve list. The Lions can decide then to keep Zylstra on the IR list, ending his 2023 season, or they could come to an injury settlement agreement with Zylstra and release him again.”

Whether he returns to the field at all this season remains to be seen. Rapoport reported that Zylstra is expected to miss six months, which will likely wipe out the entire season.

Rookie Tight End Shines for Lions

While Zylstra was expected to compete for a reserve spot with the Lions, rookie tight end Sam LaPorta appears to be running away with the competition to start. The second-round pick has worked his way into a place with the first-team offense through the first week of training camp, earning some praise from offensive coordinator Ben Johnson in the process.

“Yeah, I think as a coaching staff, we’re very much, ‘You need to earn your stripes.’ And so you saw in the springtime, he got minimal work with the first team and he’s earned the right now to be in that first team huddle with Jared (Goff) and that offensive line,” Johnson said, via the team’s official website.

Johnson cautioned that LaPorta still has some improvement to make, but was confident that he would be able to move into a significant role on offense.

“He’s proven that over the course of the springtime and the work that he’s put in. So, encouraged with where he’s going,” Johnson said. “He’s still making mistakes, he’s still learning, we are putting a lot of pressure on him to pick it up, but I think he’s in a really good spot for a first-year tight end, particularly with, like I said, the volume we are playing with the installs right now, so to see him be able to go out on the field and make plays, pass game and run game, I think we’re headed the right direction.”

LaPorta already captured some national attention on the third day of training camp when he made a leaping catch on a pass from quarterback Jared Goff.
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