Lions happy to have ‘outstanding’ Ansah back in fold

John Niyo
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Ezekiel Ansah is used to taking on double teams as one of the NFL’s more accomplished pass rushers. But the one he faced Tuesday morning in Allen Park was a bit different than most.

Ansah met with Lions general manager Bob Quinn and new head coach Matt Patricia to discuss his future with the team, which, at least for the moment, carries a franchise-tag designation that’ll lock him up for at least the 2018 season in Detroit.

Speaking at the NFL Combine Wednesday morning, Quinn declined to offer any specifics about that meeting, as well as the team’s plans regarding a possible contract extension for Ansah, who’ll be guaranteed about $17.5 million in salary next season if he plays under the tag. The two sides have until July 16 to work out a deal.

“Coach and I, we had a good conversation with Ziggy about what the future entails,” Quinn said. “And all those conversations between me and the players are gonna be private. We’re not gonna get into talking about it with you guys. But we did talk to him, told him what our plan was. He understands where we’re coming from, we understand where he’s coming from, and we’re looking forward to having him on the team.”

For Patricia, officially hired this month after coaching the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, it was his first chance to sit down with Ansah, the Lions former first-round pick in 2013 who’ll turn 29 in May.

“So that was great,” Patricia said. “He’s an outstanding player. And we’re gonna try to do everything we can to put him in the right positions to help us win.”

And that was the point Quinn wanted to highlight as he fielded several questions about Ansah and his struggles to stay healthy the last two seasons — though he has missed just seven games in his five-year NFL career — after a breakout 2015 that included Pro Bowl honors.

“Ziggy has had some injuries, no question,” Quinn said. “But when you look over the course of his career, he hasn’t missed all that many games. One thing about Ziggy is he’s extremely tough. When he can practice, he practices. When he can play, he plays. And I have a great deal of respect for how he approaches his work. All the behind-the-scenes things that you guys don’t see, in terms of him trying to get his body right, whether it was his ankle in 2016 to this year with his knee and a couple other things that popped up, he works extremely hard behind the scenes to get ready for Sundays. And I have a great deal of respect for that.”

He also disputes the notion Ansah isn’t still a game-changing presence on the defensive line.

Ansah finished last season with 12 sacks, nearly doubling the next-best total (Anthony Zettle with 6 ½) on the roster. But nine of those sacks came in just three games, including the final two of the regular season against Cincinnati and Green Bay.

“He played well down the stretch,” Quinn said. “The thing about Ziggy that I think really needs to be put out there is when you really watch the tape, the offensive line slides to him all the time. So you go back and watch this guy, there’s two guys trying to block him on, I’d say, more than half the plays.

“So we talk about production: OK, there’s production on paper, there’s stat lines, there’s sacks and hurries and all that stuff. That’s great. But when I watch tape and the coaches watch tape, ‘Is he doing his job? Is he occupying two blockers and Anthony Zettel is making a play? Or Kerry Hyder? Or A’Shawn (Robinson) or whoever?’ I think that’s the stuff that when you really dive into it and watch it, I thought he had a productive year.”