Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers talk about the Lions' 2-0 start and this weekend's showdown against the Atlanta Falcons. Detroit News
Allen Park — There’s this perception that Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t publicly display a wide range of emotions, but running back Zach Zenner makes his coach look like an Oscar-nominated actor.
A healthy scratch the first two weeks of the season, Zenner is waiting for his next opportunity with Zen-like patience. After gaining 202 yards from scrimmage in the Lions’ final two regular-season game last season, he hasn’t altered his practice routine and hasn’t considered asking the coaching staff for an explanation of his lack of playing time.
“You can only make the most of the opportunities you’re given and I try to do that,” Zenner said. “After that, you don’t have a say. It’s very easy from that aspect, in my opinion.
“I don’t view it as tough,” Zenner said. “I view it as something that maybe takes a little discipline to keep rolling no matter what happens. I think having that kind of discipline is helpful to sticking around, because if you were to fall off from your routine, or do things differently, because you expected to be (inactive) or whatever, when you did get your chance, you wouldn’t be ready.”
Caldwell repeatedly has said, and reiterated Thursday, the team has faith in Zenner’s ability. The reasons he’s been inactive have more to do with the roles other players fill than things Zenner can’t do.
“There are a lot of different factors,” Caldwell said. “It certainly shouldn’t give you any indication of what we think about Zach. Zach can run the football. I’ve told you that I don’t know how many times.”
With Dwayne Washington nursing a quad injury, the door appears open for Zenner to return to the lineup this week against the Atlanta Falcons.
Undrafted out of South Dakota State in 2015, Zenner has appeared in 20 games for the Lions, rushing for 394 yards on 105 carries. He’s added another 207 yards in the passes games, catching 20 passes.
In addition to Washington, the Lions were without three other players during Thursday’s practice. Center Travis Swanson (ankle), linebacker Jarrad Davis (concussion) and safety Tavon Wilson (shoulder) remained out a second consecutive day.