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Silent star: Detroit Lions rookie Ziggy Ansah lets his play — and others — do the talking

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12 2013 5:25 p.m. MST

Just as impressive was his return from an ankle injury against Tampa Bay.

“Their pass rush had been anemic the last couple of weeks, and he walks in and gets a couple of sacks,” Rogers said. “He’s really their best pass-rushing defensive end as a rookie. I think his adjustment has gone very well, and better than expected given the struggles that many college defensive ends face when they transition to the pros. When he first came in, I think he was a little overwhelmed with the amount of work required in an NFL practice. You saw times when he looked winded out there. But he’s gotten over that and has adjusted pretty well.”

In Detroit’s nationally televised 40-10 rout of Green Bay on Thanksgiving — the Lions’ first victory on Thanksgiving in 10 years — Ansah picked up two more sacks. It may have been his best game as a pro.

“Ziggy Ansah looked like a Venus fly trap,” wrote Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Seidel. “The Packers were moving the ball on their first possession, out from deep in their own territory. And then Ansah came rushing upfield and swallowed (quarterback Matt) Flynn for his third sack in two weeks. Later, he got another.”

With those impressive back-to-back performances against Tampa Bay and Green Bay, Ansah jumped back into contention for rookie player of the year and the all-rookie team honors.

Ansah’s impact has been felt in other aspects of Detroit’s defense as well. Coming into this season, the Lions were one of the worst teams in the NFL in run defense.

“They got bigger at the defensive end position, and suddenly they’re third-best in the NFL in run defense,” Rogers said. “Their rush defense has been outstanding, and Ansah’s been a part of that, for sure.”

That was before Sunday, however, when Lions allowed Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to run for 217 yards.

While Ansah’s transition on the field has been relatively smooth, what about off the field?

Suh, the former Nebraska star and 2010 rookie of the year, has known his share of controversy in the NFL. He was drawn to Ansah immediately. When the Lions selected Ansah No. 5 overall last April, Suh, whose father is from Cameroon, tweeted: "From Ghana to Detroit, welcome my African brother! Lets do work!"

Like any rookie, Ziggy needed some time to become acclimated to the team, and to the NFL lifestyle.

“He’s definitely comfortable now,” Suh said. “He was a little wary, as anybody would, at first. You’ve got to know your guys. We have a really tight-knit group. He enjoys himself. He’s comfortable with everybody.”

Asked if he has taken Ziggy under his wing, Suh replied, “I think everybody has. I don’t think we have one particular person that is a leader or anyone in particular who has taken him under their wing. He’s friends with everybody on the D-line. We all hang out. That’s what it all comes down to, just having that good bond. That’s how you’re going to be good as a defensive line.”

Those that cover the team say they’ve witnessed a transformation of sorts with the Lions D-line, which lost two starters from last season.

“What I’ve seen from his teammates is a willingness to take Ansah under their wing,” Rogers said. “He’s fit in very well with that group. It’s a very diverse group in terms of personality. Suh being kind of a cerebral, almost loner before this season, has really taken on to mentoring Ansah. Early in the offseason, Ansah said Suh was like a big brother to him. He has pretty much pledged his support to whatever he needs, whether it’s figuring out where to live in Detroit or coaching up Ansah as a player.

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