By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

In Ezekiel Ansah’s much anticipated return to the lineup last weekend, the Lions’ star defensive end didn’t make much of an impact.

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“It’s a tough game, you know,” Jim Caldwell said. “I mean, not everybody’s going to have eight sacks or anything of that nature.”

Ansah went down in Week 2 with a high ankle sprain and missed the ensuing three games. He returned in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams, but recorded just one tackle. Asked how he’d grade his performance, the playful Ansah smiled.

“There’s always room for improvement, I could do better,” he said. “It’s never been about stats for me at all, I just want to win. But if you don’t play to your expectation it’s really hard to get over it, so I’ve been working out a lot this week and just trying to get better.”

Despite Ansah’s quiet stat line, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was encouraged by his effort against the Rams.

“He flashed a couple good things there and he’s been out a few weeks. I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said.

“He still gets off the ball. He runs, he does all the things we want,” Austin added. “I think when you go back and look at it, which we did on tape, there were a lot of times that the ball was out before we ever had a chance to rush and (the Rams) did a good job that way. We’ll just continue working our things and I’m sure he’ll have an impact on games.”

Ansah’s next chance will come on Sunday, when the Lions host the Washington Redskins. (He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report, but all signs point to him playing.) Washington has a strong offensive line, anchored by left tackle Trent Williams who figures to lock horns with Ansah throughout the game.

“I’m excited. It’s been hard just being at home watching these guys battle out there without me, so I’m definitely excited to be out on the field again,” Ansah said.

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To improve on last week’s performance, Ansah knows he needs to play without restraint.

“It’s all mental. I just gotta be able to stay mentally focused and not think about the injury too much, just go out and play,” he said.

Ansah added that no one is 100 percent healthy at this point in the season.

“But (I feel) as good as I can feel,” he said.

Prior to being sidelined, Ansah had played in 41 straight games. Though the injury tested his resolve, it also helped him gain perspective.

“They say when adversity hits is when you see the true colors of a man,” Ansah said. “In the beginning, thinking about it and sitting out, I was like, ‘Man, when am I going to be out there?’ But guess what – there’s other people that have been injured that are out for the season, so who am I to complain?

“I was simply out for a few weeks, and coming back again and being able to come in the game has been really good. I’m happy to be back to help these guys.”

He’ll look to be an even bigger help this weekend than he was last, and Caldwell has faith in Ansah’s ability to deliver.

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“He’ll play hard and tough and what happens, happens. Sometimes it opens up opportunities for others, so just keep doing what he does,” the coach said.