Lions TE Sam LaPorta surprisingly returns to practice, optimistic about playing

Detroit Lions tight end Sam LaPorta was able to take some reps in practice on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

When Detroit Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta left a Week 18 game with a knee injury, it looked like he might be out for months.

He might not even be out a week.

In a pretty big surprise, LaPorta was back at Lions practice on Thursday. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, LaPorta said he took some reps at practice and was "optimistic" about playing in Sunday night's wild-card game against the Los Angeles Rams.

That would be a huge development for the Lions. LaPorta had an excellent rookie season, with 86 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's a rare season for a rookie tight end in the NFL. He became the clear No. 2 option in the Lions' passing offense behind Amon-Ra St. Brown.

LaPorta then suffered a bad-looking knee injury in the Week 18 finale. Coach Dan Campbell was criticized some for playing starters in the finale, despite Detroit having little chance to move up to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

It turns out that the injury wasn't as serious as it appeared. It might not even cost LaPorta to miss any games, which would be very good news for the Lions.