Lions new RB Matt Asiata off to ‘nice start’

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — It hasn’t taken long for running back Matt Asiata to start working his way into some increased opportunities with the Lions.

During Tuesday’s OTA practice, the six-year veteran received reps with the second-team offense after working with the third and fourth teams the past couple of weeks.

Lions running back Matt Asiata readies for a reception during an OTA last week in Allen Park.

“He’s had a nice start,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “Obviously, got to pick up a little bit of the verbiage there. Came right back in and really, I haven’t seen him struggle a bit to pick up a system that has some things to learn, some verbiage to learn in order to get you started.

“He’s a professional, he’s been around and you can see it the way he carries himself.”

Asiata (6-foot, 219 pounds) signed a one-year deal prior to the start of OTAs after receiving a three-day tryout during rookie minicamp in May. He spent the past five seasons with the Vikings as Adrian Peterson’s backup, but now gives the Lions another versatile option in the backfield to work with.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell commended Asiata for his progression and ability to adapt to the team’s offensive system in such a short period of time.

“What you do find about guys that have been around awhile in professional football, there’s not a whole lot of difference between what protection you use or what running plays you use here and there,” Caldwell said.

“Aiming points may change a little bit, but for them it’s just kind of like translating, ‘Oh, this is just like this particular play that we use to run when I was at such-and-such of place, Minnesota or whatever it might be,’ so I think his transition has been smooth. He’s looked good. He’s working well for us.”

Whitehead absent again

For the third consecutive week, linebacker Tahir Whitehead was absent from the practice field. The OTA sessions are considered voluntary, but Whitehead’s absence was said to be excused.

Also not practicing for the Lions on Tuesday were defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and Armonty Bryant, guard T.J. Lang (hip), safety Don Carey and offensive tackle Corey Robinson (foot) and Taylor Decker (shoulder).

Staff writer Justin Rogers contributed