On Monday, it was reported that the Detroit Lions are signing veteran tight end Zach Ertz to the practice squad ahead of their NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. Wednesday, Lions coach Dan Campbell confirmed the signing had happened, but pumped the brakes on the expectations for the Pro Bowler’s immediate impact.
“Look, he just got here,” Campbell said. “I know he’s in shape. I talked to him the other day. He understands we’re just going to gauge this and see where we’re at.”
Ertz started the season with the Arizona Cardinals, catching 27 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in seven game appearances before a quad injury landed him on injured reserve. When he was finally healthy enough to return to play, Ertz requested—and was granted—his release at the end of November.
The Lions are in need of depth at tight end after suffering two injuries at the position this postseason. Second-year player James Mitchell suffered a hand injury that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve, while Brock Wright broke his forearm in Sunday’s Divisional Round win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Detroit currently has two healthy tight ends in star rookie Sam LaPorta and veteran Anthony Firkser, but no depth behind those two.
Ertz is mainly a receiving threat, and Campbell indicated they need to spend the next few days deciding whether that skillset is what they’ll need against the 49ers this week.
“He’s played, played at a high level. There’s things that he does well and it’s just a matter of, is this the week to use him?” Campbell said.
The Lions have yet to make this move official, but they did make a handful of transactions on the practice squad on Tuesday:
- Placed RB Jermar Jefferson on practice squad IR
- Signed RB Jake Funk to practice squad
- Signed OL Matt Farniok to practice squad
- Released LB Raymond Johnson from practice squad