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Despite injuries, Lions coach Dan Campbell defends playing starters vs. Vikings

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell said he did not regret starters vs. the Minnesota Vikings, but did try to limit players. It’s unclear if Sam LaPorta and Kalif Raymond will miss time in the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions suffered two injuries during their regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, but coach Dan Campbell didn’t regret his decision to play starters after the game.

Both rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and reserve receiver Kalif Raymond suffered knee injuries and did not return to the game. Campbell said the news isn’t all bad for both players, but it isn’t good, either.

“The best way I can put it is it’s probably not as bad as it looked, but it’s not good news,” Campbell said after the game.

Many debated whether the Lions should play their starters at all in this contest. The Lions had already clinched—at a minimum—the third overall seed in the NFC. The only way they could have climbed to the two seed is if they beat the Vikings, and both the Cowboys and Eagles lost against opponents they were heavily favored against. But with the Lions game at 1 p.m. ET and the Cowboys and Eagles at 4:30 p.m. ET, Detroit would have no way of knowing whether the two seed were ever on the table until after the game.

So Campbell defended his decision to play starters in the game, even noting that they tried to loosen the load of some of their star players by playing some of their depth.

“You don’t want guys to get hurt. I said a prayer last night. I do it every time for these games for our guys,” Campbell said. “You don’t want anybody to get hurt, especially a game like this, but there again, we (only) had two tight ends, and we used (Dan) Skip(per). We tried to limit what we could, and that happend to be a play that it happened.

“With (Raymond), it was kind of the same thing. We tried to take care of (Amon-Ra) Saint (Brown) there towards the end. Well, you get (Raymond) in the game a little more, and then (Raymond) gets hurt. It’s just a tough deal. It’s tough. I know this, you’re really kinda either all-in or all-out. And we were going. We needed to do that. We already had a number of guys on the inactive (list) that are injured, so you can only bring so many guys and play them. I would say all-in-all, we got out of it pretty good.”

The problem seemed exacerbated by minor injuries to other stars like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Brian Branch, but Campbell said that as far as he knew, both were doing fine.

“No, I think he’s good,” Campbell said of St. Brown.

The big news, though, is LaPorta, who was an essential part of the Lions offense all season. He finished the regular season second on the team in both catches and yards, and tied for the lead in touchdown receptions.

Per Ian Rapoport, LaPorta is “likely to miss time” with the injury, which he calls a hyperextended knee and bone bruise. Although ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler says, the Lions “likely won’t know his playoff outlook for a few days.”

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