ALLEN PARK — There isn’t a defensive end pocketing more money in base salary this season than Ezekiel Ansah.
He’s making $17.143 million on the franchise tag. That means he’s already made $6.1 million this year. But he’s only played 19 snaps, which comes out to roughly $321,052.63 per snap.
That has a whole lot of folks frustrated.
Now just imagine being Ezekiel Ansah.
“I wouldn’t wish (this) upon nobody, you know?” the Detroit Lions defensive end said after practice Friday. “I’m just happy that I’ve been better over the weeks and I’m just looking forward to keep improving.”
Ansah is a tremendous player when healthy. In 2015, he had 14.5 sacks. Only J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack had more. That’s pretty good company.
The problem is, 2015 is the last time he was healthy.
Ansah battled an ankle injury throughout 2016, and was limited to two sacks. Then he missed all of training camp in 2017 with a knee injury. He returned in time for the opener, but was unable to practice fully until the last week of November. And he was held to five sacks the first 13 weeks of the season because of it — three of which came against Ereck Flowers.
This year, he said he was looking forward to finally being healthy. And then he missed all of training camp for the second straight year because of injury.
He returned in time for the opener, but lasted just 19 snaps before he suffered yet another injury, this time a shoulder. And he hasn’t played since, despite practicing for several weeks.
That has fueled speculation among some fans that he’s just collecting checks — a notion that was strongly refuted by Matt Patricia, but one Ansah also understands.
“Yeah, I get it,” he said. “That only tells me how much love they’ve got for me. They just want me to come out and play, and that’s what I’m (trying to do). I come in here every single day, just get better and get out there and play with the boys.”
Ansah seems like he’s close to doing that again. He practiced all week, although on a limited basis, and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against Miami. If it were another player, he’d be expected to go.
But this is Ezekiel Ansah, and the mounting setbacks require more circumspection about his status. Ansah isn’t talking about his status, either, nor is his coach. That has fueled yet more speculation, much like the DeAndre Levy saga from a couple years ago, but Ansah says he understands why Patricia isn’t answering questions.
“I’m not surprised,” Ansah said. “We just don’t talk about injuries or anything. If anybody goes through a setback, all they do is come here and work each day, try to improve upon what they’re (doing), just find a way to get back on the field.”
He looks close to doing it. The question is, how long will he last this time?