For all of the faults often associated with the Detroit Lions, they've never been a team accused of being very deceptive. Coach Jim Schwartz has always been a very forthcoming man. He can be terse and dismissive in press conferences and interviews, but when Schwartz tells you something, you have always been able to trust and respect his word.
That backdrop is what makes the consternation surrounding first-round pick Ziggy Ansah and his missed practices all the weirder.
Ansah, dazed by a hit from offensive guard Leroy Harris that day, left the field briefly but returned to practice. He came out onto the field the next day, but quickly was led back to the training room.
The Lions kept this information unusually quiet.
While many speculated that Ansah might have suffered a concussion, the Lions' lips were sealed. The rookie defensive end missed 10 days of practice, yet there was no official word from the team.
That changed Wednesday as the Lions released their initial injury report for the season.
Perhaps the reason for the sounds of silence was the end of the first sentence in the above quote.
"Returned to practice" is not something that is supposed to happen when there is any question about a possible concussion. The NFL's concussion protocol, while not officially listed on the league's website, is nicely laid out in a highly informative piece from Mike Sando of ESPN.
There is no reporting on whether the Lions administered the sideline concussion assessment tool or if Ansah was symptomatic when he returned to practice that day.
Now that we all officially know what was widely presumed, and now that Ansah has been cleared to play, there are some questions that need to be answered. Many of those are ones that cannot be answered here.
One question that we can tackle is how much Ansah might be impacted by the concussion.
First, we know that he missed 10 days of practice and was limited in practice in his first day back.
Ziggy Ansah officially listed as limited on the Lions injury report— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) September 5, 2013
While Ansah should now be active for his rookie debut at Ford Field on Sunday, it's unlikely he sees extensive playing time. He hasn't been able to participate in drills or game-specific field work for the Vikings game. It's unknown at this point whether Ansah will start the game.
The larger issue involves the missed practices. Any time a rookie misses two full weeks of practice reps, it's a real negative. For a football naif like Ansah, those lost practice sessions are even more significant.
Ansah is an incredibly gifted athlete. I've used the analogy before that, physically, he is akin to how athletically superior Lebron James is to fellow NBA players.
At the Senior Bowl in January, I was struck by his fast twitch musculature and his truly rare gift in translating speed into power. The only defensive end I've ever seen do that like Ansah can was Bruce Smith.
But Ansah is so inexperienced.
His technique with his hands remains in the infantile stages. Working in concert with the rest of the line is critically important, and Ansah lost many chances to develop that knowing chemistry.
Sure, he's an amazing physical freak. That can only carry him so far in the regular season, however. His rookie learning curve just got longer.
Then, there is the medical impact.
Research has proven that each concussion has increasingly negative and cumulative effects. Lions fans know this all too well from the Jahvid Best experience, as his promising career was halted from repeated concussions.
Ansah is not to that point—not even close—however, his vulnerability is heightened. Another inadvertent collision, like getting a knee to the head as he falls into a pile, and the prized rookie could be shelved for a long time.
The veil of secrecy is troubling as well.
The irony that this played out under the backdrop of the lawsuit settlement makes it seem even worse for the Lions. Why would they go out of their way to conceal the truth when that very line of thinking just cost the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars? That is indeed a disturbing development.
We all hope Ansah plays Sunday and plays well. He is a critical piece in what figures to be a vastly improved defense, and the Lions need him. Hopefully, his concussion hasn't hindered his progress too much or develop into anything worse as Ansah attacks opposing quarterbacks this year.
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