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O'HARA: Zenner's season ended on a high note with Lions

Zach Zenner charted out his offseason schedule to begin with rest and self-indulgence, both required and deserved from the rigors of his fourth season with the Detroit Lions.

He’ll take a break from the workout regime he undertook earlier this year that increased his strength and muscle mass.

“I won’t do much of anything for two, three weeks,” he told reporters last week. “I’ll slowly start getting back into it. I certainly don’t want to go backwards.”

A reporter joked that he might splurge on chocolate chip cookies for the next two weeks.

“More than that,” he said.

Before he shifts gears and begins work on two careers – his present job as an NFL running back, and preparing for a future career in medicine – Zenner can reflect back on how his 2018 season with the Lions ended on a high note and likely strengthened his position with the team.

He rushed for 93 yards on 21 carries and added one reception for 30 yards in the Lions’ 31-0 season-ending road win over the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the season.

It was a good finish to a season that almost ended before it began. Zenner sustained a back injury in the final preseason game that resulted in him being put on injured reserve, then put on waivers with an injury designation.

Zenner was signed back for the final eight games on Nov. 6, and he contributed on special teams and in the running game.

The Green Bay game wasn’t the first time he carried the load. In Week 14 he took over at running back in the fourth quarter and scored the clinching touchdown on a one-yard run in a 17-3 road win over the Arizona Cardinals.

On the clinching drive he had all seven of the Lions’ carries for 42 yards. For the game, he had 12 carries for 54 yards.

Overall, his season was better than indicated by the final stats – 55 carries for 262 yards with three TDs and an average of 4.8 yards per carry. His performance as a core player on special teams added to his value.

After the Green Bay game, head coach Matt Patricia sounded like he was pleased with Zenner’s performance but not surprised.

“You ask anybody about Zach, he’s a guy that’s just consistent,” Patricia said. “He’s tough. He’s ready to go. He takes care of his body. He’s always on top of the game plan.

“He’s somebody you can put in any situation, and he’ll execute to the highest of his ability. It’s kind of not a surprise for those of us who’ve been around him in those situations. He puts everything into it.

“He studies. He grinds it out. It’s a great tribute to him.”

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