ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A key piece of the Detroit Lions’ offense over the past four seasons was noticeably absent from the locker room following Wednesday’s practice after tight end T.J. Hockenson was traded to the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday's trade deadline.
While it was difficult for teammates to see the 2020 Pro Bowler leave, the Lions (1-6) insist Hockenson's exit was all part of their long-term rebuilding plan, losing record or not.
“It definitely is tough. We are human beings. We all knew T.J. well. We had relationships with him and just to see him go like that in a blink, without getting to say bye to him, maybe some guys did, but it’s tough. It is a business and I think we all understand that,” receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. “We all knew what we signed up for coming into this league, but it’s tough. But I don’t think any of us, teammates or players are thinking this season’s over. We’re going into each week trying to win. That’s our mindset. That’s our mentality, and the Packers are this week, so we’ve got to get ready.”
The Lions received a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick, while the Vikings got a 2023 fourth-round selection and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick along with Hockenson.
The conditional 2024 fourth-round pick that Detroit sent to Minnesota will become a 2024 fifth-round round pick if the Vikings win a playoff game, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell described the Hockenson trade as a “business decision” as well as an “opportunity for other guys” such as tight ends Brock Wright and James Mitchell, who will be asked to step up to match Hockenson's production.
“I look at it for it’s an opportunity for other guys. And as good as T.J. was, there’s things that we’ll be able to do better potentially, having other guys on the field,” Campbell said. “There is always some of that give and take no matter what player’s out there.”
Hockenson started in 42 of the 47 games he appeared in for Detroit. The eighth overall pick in 2019 caught 186 passes for 2,068 yards and 15 touchdowns during his Lions tenure.
Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes also claimed the move wasn’t reflective of the team’s poor record.
“This move was not reflective of our record. If our record was reversed and it made sense for us, then we would’ve still done it,” Holmes said.
“I think it was a good deal for the future of our team and that’s my job is I always got to have a laser focus, not only the current but also the future.”