On Wednesday, the Detroit Lions began practicing for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers and made three procedural moves to their roster: placing tight end Brock Wright on injured reserve, promoting defensive tackle Tyson Alualu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, and signing veteran tight end Zach Ertz to the practice squad.
Alualu was signed to the Lions practice squad in early December in wake of the injury to Alim McNeill, and after a few weeks of acclimation, he was elevated to their game-day roster in Week 17 for their game against the Cowboys. Alualu would go on to be elevated in Week 18, the Wild Card, and Divisional round playoff games as well.
The move to elevate Alualu seemed logical to make based on those four consecutive elevations, with the only other player likely being considered was fullback Jason Cabinda, who has been elevated each of the last three games.
Wright broke his forearm during the Lions Divisional round playoff game against the Buccaneers and will require surgery. Unfortunately, his season is over. With James Mitchell also recently placed on injured reserve, the Lions were down to just two tight ends on the roster: Sam LaPorta and the recently promoted Anthony Firkser—thus the move to add Ertz.
The Lions had begun talking with Ertz over the last few weeks, and it was leaked by the national media on Monday that the Lions planned to sign him to their practice squad. While Ertz, a former three-time pro bowler and Super Bowl Champion, could give the Lions a boost as a game-day elevation, coach Dan Campbell urged caution with that line of thinking, as the veteran just arrived in Allen Park on Wednesday.
“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.”
While Ertz’s status is still to be determined, the signing of Alualu does create a path to a potential game-day elevation. We will just have to wait and see how the week plays out.