Why Ansah on PUP is cause for concern for Lions

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 27: Ezekiel Ansah
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 27: Ezekiel Ansah /

Days before training camp, the Detroit Lions placed pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

The Detroit Lions announced on Tuesday that defensive end Ezekiel Ansah will open training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, citing a knee injury. He is, however, eligible to be removed from the list at any time.

While the PUP list could be a precautionary measure and little reason for panic, it certainly does not bode well for Ansah, whose impact has been hampered by a history of back, knee, and ankle issues.

Far and away the best pass rusher on the roster, Ansah finished the 2017 campaign on a strong note. He stayed on the field and off the injury report, racking up seven sacks in the final four games of the season.

Unable to come to terms on a long-term contract extension, Ansah will play under the franchise tag in 2018 in a “prove-it” year for both him and the Lions. Opening training camp on the PUP is not a good place to start. It is an ominous sign for both parties.

Unlike previous seasons, Ansah will not be able to lean on his familiarity with the scheme to help him catch up. Head coach Matt Patricia’s new system figures to be complex and dynamic, and one would surmise that Ansah – and his $17.143 million price tag – is a critical part of that system.

The sixth-year defensive end primarily focused on rehabilitation from offseason surgery during mandatory minicamp and OTAs. Any further time missed during training camp could be detrimental to his ability to contribute in the early part of the 2018 season. Early limitations and missed practices will cost Ansah necessary reps. Practice may not accurately simulate game speed, but it is the closest thing available to get players prepared.

Although there is value to a conservative approach given his injury history, the Lions must strike a balance between protecting one of their most important commodities and ensuring that he will be adequately prepared to be a factor.

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As the majority of last season showed, just being on the field is not enough. That was with a defensive scheme that he knew for several years. Let’s hope Ziggy’s stay on the PUP is short-lived.