Lions' Zenner will rest body, not mind to start offseason

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Zach Zenner

Allen Park – As the offseason hits for the Detroit Lions, running back Zach Zenner is going to give his body a break, taking at least two or three weeks off before resuming his workout routine. But there will be no such downtime for Zenner’s mind.

Zenner, who maintains post-career aspirations of working in medicine, needs to retake his Medical College Admission Test this March. His previous results, now five years old, have expired.

That means for the next six weeks, Zenner’s full-time job is going to be studying. And once that test is out of the way, he’ll continue his offseason tradition of working in a laboratory, building up his resume while working on important research of a devastating disease.

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In the past, Zenner has worked out of the VA hospital in Detroit, studying the impact of diet on hypertension under Dr. Noreen Rossi. This April, he’ll return to the Sanford School of Medicine in Sioux Falls, S.D., to resume research on Batten Disease, a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disorder that impacts children.

As for Zenner’s football career, it’s not done yet. Returning from two broken bones in his back, he rejoined the Lions in November and had the best stretch of his career, averaging 4.5 yards per carry over the final eight games.

Like rookie Kerryon Johnson, Zenner’s north-south running style appeared to thrive in Detroit’s revamped blocking scheme. The veteran back deflected all praise for his individual success to his teammates.

“I really think the offensive line was doing a great job, the line, tight ends and receivers,” Zenner said. “That’s really where I’d point the difference to, those guys were doing a great job and it’s my job to read it out.”

Zenner is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and his recent backfield success, combined with the value he provides on special teams, should generate some interest on the open market.

Despite drawing regular praise for coach Matt Patricia, it’s too early to suggest the Lions will be interested in retaining Zenner, given the team will be hiring a new offensive coordinator. But if it works out, Zenner would be thrilled to resume his career in the only place he’s called home since turning pro in 2015.

“Yeah. I like it here,” Zenner said. “I’m come to know the city, really appreciate the fans here and I would certainly consider it. Absolutely. Strongly consider it.

“A lot could happen. You never know what that plan is, who is going to bring who in, whatever. A lot can change in an offseason. I certainly could come back.”

In four seasons with the Lions, Zenner has run the ball 174 times for 685 yards (3.9 YPC). He’s also caught 27 passes for 263, scoring eight total touchdowns.