By: Will Burchfield
Ziggy Ansah chuckled when asked how he feels now versus 2015, when he finished third in the NFL in sacks.
“It could always be better. There’s always more room for improvement as a player, still a student of the game,” Ansah said on Wednesday.
Then he smiled when asked if that 2015 performance is still inside him.
“I’m the same person,” said Ansah.
The same person, yes, but not quite the same player. Since suffering a high ankle sprain early last season, compounded later by a knee injury, Ansah has looked limited. The explosiveness that produced 14.5 sacks in 2015 — and a trip to the Pro Bowl — hasn’t been in full supply.
Through six games this season Ansah has four sacks, and three of those came in a Week 2 matchup against beleaguered Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers.
Ansah admitted he’s searching for more consistency, but wouldn’t say he’s frustrated.
“I wouldn’t use the word frustration. I just want to be out there for my team and be the best Ziggy that I can be. That is what I’ve been planning to be this whole year,” he said.
Ansah said his knee feels “good,” even if his play might suggest otherwise.
“No excuses on what I’m going through,” he said.
Asked to explain what he’s going through, he said, “I would, but Coach Caldwell would be the best person to explain all that to you.”
Which is to say, I can’t.
The 28-year-old defensive end is a free agent after this season and a candidate for the franchise tag. At this point, knee surgery doesn’t appear likely, but Ansah didn’t totally rule it out.
“Do I think I’m going to need surgery after the season? Nothing like that has come up,” he said.
Which is to say, it might.
Ansah sat out the duration of training camp and preseason, and he’s rarely been a full participant at practice this year. It’s clear his lack of health has impacted his level of play.
Jim Caldwell, who on Monday refuted the notion that Ansah has “struggled mightily,” wouldn’t entertain the idea.
“I know you want me to comment on that in a way that’s printable material, but just give him time. We just got started. He’s a tough guy and he does a nice job at what he does. Let’s see where he ends up. This time of year I don’t think you make pronouncements in any sort of way, good or bad, because it’s a long season,” Caldwell said.
The bye week afforded Ansah some time to recover and reduce the strain on his knee, and he agreed he needed it.
Said Caldwell, “Anytime that you can get a little bit of an extended treatment time without necessarily pounding on it, it’s always good.”
The attention will return to his play when Detroit welcomes in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Lions need Ansah to be better. They need him to channel his 2015 self.
Otherwise, the questions will persist. Namely, Why haven’t you been more consistent?
“Me personally? I just do what I’m asked to do,” said Ansah.
But the Lions are asking for more.