Ex-Vikings TE Sustains Significant Knee Injury

Jun 15, 2021; in Eagen, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Shane Zylstra (82) makes a catch during drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are a big part of the life of NFL players, but some are luckier than others in that regard. Promising careers are ruined by injuries all the time. Even more cruel are injuries in practice compared to those sustained in a game. One of those hit Detroit Lions tight end Shane Zylstra who will likely miss the entire 2023 campaign.

Ex-Vikings TE Sustains Significant Knee Injury

Ex-Vikings TE Sustains Significant Knee Injury
Dec 24, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Shane Zylstra (84) catches a touchdown pass as Carolina Panthers linebacker Cory Littleton (55) defends in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Lions reporter Justin Rogers documented the incident on Monday: “Shane Zylstra taken to the locker room with a right leg injury after getting hit low by cornerback Khalil Dorsey. Not an illegal hit, but definitely not the kind you want to deliver against a teammate in practice.”

Of course, there was still some hope that the damage was minor. However, later that day, Ian Rapoport released the harsh news: “Lions TE Shane Zylstra is believed to have suffered a serious and significant knee injury, sources say. He’ll have more tests, but there isn’t a lot of optimism. Zylstra burst into the national spotlight last year with 3 TDs vs the Panthers. Now expected to miss 6 months.”

While that is not an official diagnosis, that report wouldn’t have been put out if it wasn’t at least almost certain. A six-month timeline virtually ends Zylstra’s season before it even starts.

Aug 20, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Shane Zylstra (84) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Marvell Tell III (39) in the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Born in Spicer, Minnesota, the tight end starred at wide receiver at Minnesota State and went undrafted in 2020. His 227 receptions, 4,297 receiving yards, and 54 touchdowns are all school records. Zylstra signed with the Vikings in 2021 and moved from receiver to tight end. After making one catch in the preseason, the Vikings waived him on the final cutdown day to trim the roster down to 53 players.

The Lions signed him to their practice squad, ending the chapter with his hometown team. His NFL debut came against the purple team in October of 2021. Moving between active roster and practice squad for a couple of seasons, expectations were elevated for his 2023 campaign because of a three-touchdown game on last year’s Christmas Eve against the Carolina Panthers. He will be a restricted free agent after the season.

Hockenson Chatter
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) reacts after a play against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Lions selected Sam LaPorta with the 34th overall pick in April’s draft. Coming out of Iowa State, he is expected to become the team’s top tight end sooner rather than later. Zylstra, Brock Wright, and James Mitchell handled the tight end duties in 2022 after Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson was traded to the Vikings. The pick the Lions received in return was traded a couple of times, so Detroit ended up picking quarterback Hendon Hooker as the main piece of the package received in the original trade.

Minnesota also employed Zylstra’s brother Brandon in 2018. The former CFL All-Star appeared in all 16 games that year and had one catch for 23 yards as mostly a special teams player and depth receiver.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt