Still navigating a number of COVID cases and injuries down the stretch of the season, the Detroit Lions elevated five players off the practice squad Saturday afternoon.
The team announced linebacker Tavante Beckett, offensive lineman Parker Ehinger, and defensive lineman Bruce Hector have been elevated as COVID replacements, while wide receiver Javon McKinley and tight end Ross Travis are standard elevations.
The Lions are in clear need of depth at each of those positions. Beckett, who is being elevated for a third time this season, provides help at linebacker and on special teams with Alex Anzalone and Josh Woods suffering season-ending injuries, and Curtis Bolton coming into the weekend listed as questionable with a back injury that popped up on Thursday’s practice report.
Ehinger, Hector and McKinley’s elevations are more directly connected to Detroit’s current COVID cases. The team will be without starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and wide receivers Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds on Sunday.
On Friday, coach Dan Campbell had expressed optimism Reynolds would be cleared ahead of the game after spending the required five days on the COVID/reserve list, but the veteran receiver was unable to get medically cleared prior to the team departing on Saturday.
For McKinley, an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, it will be his professional debut. Initially signed immediately following the draft, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver has had a tumultuous first year with the franchise, spending time on the non-football injury list to start training camp, being released and re-signed to the practice squad three times and only recently returning from a five-week stint on injured reserve.
As for Travis, he was signed on Tuesday to help restock the cupboard at tight end after the Lions lost T.J. Hockenson and Shane Zylstra to season-ending injuries in December and Brock Wright landed on the COVID/reserve list earlier in the week.
Undrafted out of Penn State in 2015, Travis has spent time on five other franchises, appearing in 28 games across five seasons, including three with Arizona earlier this season. The 6-foot-6, 248-pounder has caught 14 passes for 142 yards during his career.