Lions minus Slay, Lang, Willson and more as they face Bears in Chicago

Ziggy Ansah active; Zach Zenner returns

The Detroit Lions will be without several key players at Soldier Field to play the NFC North leading Chicago Bears today. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

Cornerback Darius Slay (knee) will miss first game this season. He didn’t practice all week and his status was announced on Friday.

Right guard T.J. Lang (neck) has suffered from a variety of injuries this season and also missed games in Weeks 2 and 5. The LIons announced on Friday that he wouldn’t play today.

Linebacker Eli Harold (shoulder) was added to the inactive list on Saturday.

Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) and tight end Luke Willson (shoulder) will not play. They were  listed as questionable on Friday.

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) will play in his second game.

Running back Kerryon Johnson (ankle) was questionable but is a go.

Running back Zach Zenner, who was released in September with a back injury, was re-signed on Tuesday and is active today. Expect to see him on special teams.

Other Lions’ inactives: Wide receiver Bruce Ellington and offensive lineman Andrew Donnal.

The Lions are barely hanging in the NFC North race with a 3-5 record. Today’s game could be a turning point in the season.

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Lions’ RB Zach Zenner returns: Five things to know

Healthy after snapping 2 bones in his back

ALLEN PARK >> Zach Zenner said he was actuall a little nervous for Wednesday’s practice, his first since the Lions re-signed him on Tuesday.

The running back had not been with the Lions since he signed an injury settlement and was waived on Sept. 12.

“Where I’ve always fit is whatever I’m asked to do whether it’s on special teams or offense, whatever they need,’’ said Zenner who played in eight games last season mostly on special teams.

He wasn’t done with football but he wasn’t sure if football was done with him until he got the call from Lions GM Bob Quinn.

Five things to know about Zenner:

1. First things first, he had to get healthy after a back injury. That took about six weeks which matched the settlement. He feels great now. He had snapped two bones in his back but said he was lucky it wasn’t worse. “If you’re going to break your back, that’s what you want to do,’’ Zenner said.

2. When he signed the agreement there was some talk about bringing him back. “The thing is it was so long ago, you can have whatever intentions you want but then eight weeks into the season who knows what’s going to be happening,’’ Zenner said. “I was aware of that although whether they wanted to or not who knew if they were going to be able to bring me back.’’

3. While he was away from the team he said he watched every game except two. “While I was not healthy I was enjoying being at home watching, but when I got healthy it got harder to watch because you feel like you could be out there playing and participating or at least helping out during the week at practice,’’ Zenner said on Wednesday. “Once you’re healthy that’s when it’s this is getting tougher to watch.’’

4. He was preparing for either a return to football or moving on with his life. He studied for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test.) “I took it five years ago in May so I need to retake it. Was I going to have to retake it? Yes, sucks but I have to. Spent a lot of time studying for that, still plan to take it in March or April.’’ His teammates call him “Doc” because of  his intentions to go to medical school after football. He also got to spend quality time with his wife and young son. “He is working on crawling which is exciting and terrifying,’’ Zenner said.

5. Zenner and Ameer Abdullah joined the Lions at the same time and became great friends. “He’s been my teammate my whole career. It’s tough to see him go, I wish him the best. I’ll be watching whenever I can. Great guy, great teammate,’’ Zenner said. The Lions waived Abdullah on Tuesday and the Vikings claimed him.

Detroit Lions make cuts, release initial 53-man roster

Changes will likely be made this weekend

A few surprises were included when the Lions released their list of roster cuts on Saturday to get down to an initial 53-man roster. Really, though no shockers among those no longer on the team. A few have a chance of being brought back for the practice squad but first them must clear waivers by noon on Sunday.

Here’s a look at the initial 53-man Lions roster. This will likely change through the weekend, next week and, in fact, through much of the season.

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks (2): Matthew Stafford and Matt Cassel

Analysis: Jake Rudock was the odd man out. If he clears waivers, he could be brought back on the practice squad. This move was pretty much guaranteed when Cassel was signed in the spring.

Wide receivers (6): Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, T.J. Jones, Bradley Marquez and Brandon Powell.

Analysis: A little surprised to see six wide receivers on the roster, but can’t argue with the choices. Rookie Brandon Powell was a standout in camp and the preseason. Bradley Marquez quietly earned his spot on the roster. Jace Billingsley and Chris Lacy were waived with Andy Jones placed on PUP.

Tight ends (4): Luke Willson, Hakeem Valles, Michael Roberts and Levine Toilolo.

Analysis: It became clear in camp that Valles belonged on the roster in his third year, his first with the Lions. Roberts didn’t get much opportunity in his rookie season last year. He needs to take a step forward and make the most of his chances.

Running backs (5): Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick. Ameer Abdullah and FB Nick Bellore.

Analysis: Dwayne Washington was waived after struggled with a toe injury throughout camp. Zach Zenner, who injured his back in the final preseason game, was placed on injured reserve. Who will get the most work? Depends on the game and individual performance. Johnson, the second-round pick, could be something special but give him a little time.

Offensive line (10): Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner, rookie Tyrell Crosby, Kenny Wiggins, Joe Dahl, Brian Mihalik and Leo Koloamatangi.

Analysis: Good depth here with 10. Only seven are active on game days. Tyrell Crosby has been effective enough to make the roster as a rookie. Koloamatangi spent last season on the practice squad in Detroit and obviously learned along the way. If the starting five stay healthy, this line should be improved over last season.

DEFENSE

Defensive line (7): Ziggy Ansah, A’Shawn Robinson, Sylvester Williams, Anthony Zettel, Kerry Hyder, Da’Shawn Hand and Ricky Jean Francois.

Analysis: Seven a low number, although it could change. Also, this is a new defense scheme and the numbers reflect that. Can this group pass rush better than they did in preseason games? That is perhaps the biggest question on defense. Francois has stepped up as a veteran leader which has been a missing ingredient since Haloti Ngata’s departure.

Linebackers (7): Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Eli Harold, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Miles Killebrew and Trevor Bates.

Analysis: Harold was a late addition who could prove to be one of Bob Quinn’s better August moves. Killebrew made the move from safety and Patricia has made no secret that he loves his hard-hitting no matter where he is on the field.

Defensive backs (9): Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Charles Washington and Tracey Walker.

Analysis: DeShawn Shead was surprisingly waived. He was expected to vie for a starting role but a back injury held him back. Still, they could have found a way to keep him around. Washington’s play on special teams last year, helped him stay around this year. Third-round pick Tracey Walker has been impressive since the offseason.

Special teams (3): Matt Prater, Sam Martin and Don Muhlbach.

Analysis: Martin had a rough year last year coming back from a foot injury but he’s looked fine so far. Ryan Santoso got some film in the preseason game which is the best he could hope for.

The cuts:

RELEASED (VESTED VETERANS)

LB Jonathan Freeny, C Wesley Johnson, TE Sean McGrath and CB DeShawn Shead.

WAIVED

RB Dwayne Washington, DE Alex Barrett, WR Jace Billingsley, LB Freddie Bishop, WR Dontez Ford, CB Mike Ford, CB Chris Jones, WR Chris Lacy, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter, S Rolan Milligan, QB Jake Rudock, LB Darnell Sankey, P Ryan Santoso and T Dan Skipper.

PLACED ON RESERVE/INJURED

RB Zach Zenner

PLACED ON RESERVE/PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM

WR Andy Jones

TRADED

Traded T Corey Robinson to the Carolina Panthers for an undisclosed future draft selection.

WAIVED FROM RESERVE/INJURED

DT Toby Johnson