With a tight start TJ Hockenson (knee) designated questionable play against him Minnesota Vikings in week 5, the Detroit lions made a roster lift Saturday, promoting tight end Shane Zylstra to the active roster.
Hockenson missed practice Wednesday, but returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday, and even spoke to the media, which is usually a strong indicator that he is likely to play Sunday.
“We’ll see where (the knee) is on Sunday and we’ll go from there,” Hockenson said. “It is what it is. You never play this game 100 percent, so it’s one of those things.”
With Hockenson’s knee likely in need of a medical clearance before Sunday’s game, and Darren Fells being the only other tight end on the active roster, the Lions appear to be leaning on Zylstra for insurance.
Zylstra, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers TE Brandon Zylstra – played college football in Minnesota, where he was an unprecedented wide receiver. He was not drafted in the 2020 draft and, like most UDFAs during the peak COVID-19 season, he failed to hold on to any NFL teams. In 2021, he landed a tryout with the Vikings, ironically the Lions’ opponent this week, as a converted tight end and landed a contract in training camp. He was released in the cuts, but instead of signing on the Vikings practice team, he opted for Detroit.
At 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds (over 215 during his college days), Zylstra is primarily a TE-F and if Hockenson can’t play, he’ll likely take over his slot pass-catching duties. Since he wasn’t with the Lions during training camp, we haven’t seen Zylstra’s blocking skills, but the fact that he became a tight end last season, it’s fair to think that the Lions would rely more on Fells and FB Jason Cabinda. in lockdown situations.