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Detroit Lions praise former Minnesota Vikings RB Matt Asiata, decline to sign him

The Detroit Lions praised former Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata, but they didn’t sign him.

In two of the past three years when Adrian Peterson wasn’t regularly available to the Minnesota Vikings, one of the two key players they turned to was Matt Asiata.

However, despite declining to pick up the 2017 option year in Peterson’s contract, the Vikings also declined to re-sign Asiata, who remains an unrestricted free agent. After a three-day tryout with the Detroit Lions over the weekend, they also declined to sign Asiata, despite praising his abilities.

“I think anybody knows who’s seen him work, he’s a good special teamer, he’s tough, he’s a very good pass protector,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said before the start of rookie camp last week, according to the Detroit Free Press. “He carries the ball and he runs behind his pads. He’s always been a very, very effective player in this league.”


Last year, with Peterson playing only three games, Jerick McKinnon was the leading rusher with 539 yards and Asiata had 402, but neither of them averaged even 3.5 yards per rush for the last-ranked rushing team in the NFL.

In 2014, with Peterson playing only one game before dealing with legal issues, Asiata led the team with 570 yards and nine touchdowns on a 3.5-yard average but lost the workhorse role to McKinnon after six games before McKinnon was lost for the final five games and Asiata resumed that lead role.

But instead of calling on Asiata after the weekend, the Lions appear intent, at least right now, on sticking with a running back corps riddled with questions marks.

Ameer Abdullah had season-ending foot surgery after two games and Theo Riddick as much a pass catcher out of the backfield as rusher and had two wrist surgeries. They also have Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and Mike James, among others.

No Detroit running back had even 100 carries in 2016.

“We have a pretty good group of guys,” Caldwell said. “We’ll see what happens, but I think overall, we’ve got some pretty good depth there.”

Meanwhile, Asiata waits to find employment.

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