Napa, Calif. — There's a perception that the Detroit Lions are playing in safe with Ziggy Ansah, keeping the talented, but oft-injured defensive end in bubble wrap this offseason to ensure he's at peak health for the regular season.
Lions coach Matt Patricia readily acknowledges he will always prioritize keeping players healthy. But his preference is getting Ansah some snaps during the preseason, as opposed to the edge rusher seeing his first action in Week 1.
"The goal is to get everybody to September, but we still have to find out what we have as a team," Patricia said. "So, you can’t really sit back and wait. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. I think the right thing to do is to go try to improve.
"We’re obviously not wanting to put anyone in a situation where they’re going to get hurt, that’s obviously not the goal at all. But there has to be an element of practice and there has to be an element of preparation, and just being able to perform every day consistently. This is not a game where you can just roll it out there on Sunday and you expect to perform at a high level."
Ansah is coming off a 12-sack campaign, despite laboring through knee, back and ankle issues during the 2017 season. He had minor knee surgery this offseason, and for the second straight year, began training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
He was limited to individual drills during his return to practice Monday and began the slow, steady progression of ramping up his activity in the team's joint practices with the Oakland Raiders.
"It’s kind of unrealistic to just throw him back into where everybody is now after three weeks," Patricia said. "He’ll just take the progression from that standpoint, work, and get out there. Obviously, it’s good to be back into those drills, individual drills with the position, and really get that one-on-one coaching on the field."
Ansah is set to play the season on the franchise tag, a one-year, $17.1 million contract. Unless the Lions franchise him again, the former first-round pick will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.