Lions place rookie TE T.J. Hockenson on IR with ankle injury

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter Thursday against Chicago.

Hockenson was taken to the locker room after the injury and did not return. Lions coach Matt Patricia doesn't know yet whether Hockenson will need surgery, just that the No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 draft will not play again this season.

It was the second major injury for Hockenson this season along with a concussion he suffered against Kansas City while trying to hurdle a Chiefs defender.

Hockenson finished his season with 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns, with 131 of those yards coming in his debut against Arizona on Sept. 8. Hockenson topped 50 yards in only one game after that -- Nov. 3 against Oakland, with 56 yards.

"Was consistent from Day 1, someone who worked really hard," Patricia said. "I think he improved as the spring, training camp and the season went on. I think he worked really hard at his task and understand the differences between the college game and the pro game, some of the different looks he was going to see.

"Especially after early in the season when obviously a lot of production and a lot of stats early in the year, we knew things were going to change for him from that standpoint. I think he did a good job of changing some of his role a little bit, have a couple different roles from the tight end position."

With Hockenson on injured reserve, it could open up more opportunities for free-agent signing Jesse James, veteran Logan Thomas and rookie Isaac Nauta, who was promoted from the practice squad last week.

While the Lions are placing Hockenson on injured reserve, Detroit is not putting starting quarterback Matthew Stafford on injured reserve even though he has missed the past four games with broken bones in his back.

With the Lions out of playoff contention, placing Stafford on injured reserve could be a possibility, but as of now Patricia says he's still "week-by-week." When asked why Detroit would play him again this season, Patricia referenced his competitiveness.

"Obviously we're going to keep that door open and see what happens here with all the stuff we're doing with doctors and everything from that standpoint," Patricia said. "Out of respect for Matthew and his competitiveness and what he means to this team and what he brings every single week, we're going to just kind of take it week-by-week and see what happens from that standpoint."

Patricia said they'll "make the best decision we can" with Stafford if it comes to a point of playing him or not again this season.

The Lions have one open roster spot with Hockenson going on injured reserve.