Former Lions RB clarifies comments on Patricia: 'I would go play for him today'

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It's well-understood by now that Matt Patricia lost the Lions' locker room in 2018, if he ever had it in the first place. Accustomed to a more relaxed atmosphere under former head coach Jim Caldwell, the players pushed back against Patricia's hard-driving style.

And it resulted in a big step back for the franchise, from 9-7 to 6-10.

In a story published last week, Bleacher Report's Kalyn Kahler reported some players were so fed up with Patricia in 2018 that they celebrated the end of the season by drinking mimosas in the locker room. One player quoted frequently in the story was former Lions RB Zach Zenner.

"There was a lot of, 'You all have fun, because I am gone!'" Zenner said of the general attitude on locker room clean-out day. "People talking about how there was no way they were going to re-sign back in Detroit."

The Patriot Way -- characterized by long practices and strict team rules -- alienated several players, as did Patricia's abrasive attitude in team meetings. Zenner said it was "all the hard work and not the rings."

"You go to [New England] to win a ring, and you work hard and you earn it or you go deep in the playoffs. And you go to Detroit, you do that same thing, but you just lose," Zenner said. "People don't want to lose, and people especially don't want to work way harder than everyone else to have a worse record than people who work half as hard."

Zenner did credit Patricia for "making adjustments" in 2019.

"His second year was a lot different," he said. "He was a lot more relaxed and more comfortable in his surroundings. It didn't seem as unyielding as the previous year."

And on Monday, Zenner took to Twitter to further clarify his comments. Zenner said Patricia "cares deeply about his players and works extremely hard to win." And as a free agent -- he was released by the Lions last August before brief stints with the Saints, Cardinals and Dolphins -- Zenner said he would play for Patricia today if he had the chance.

"Although I didn't agree with everything, I understood the direction he was trying to take the team and did my best to make that happen," he said. "I would go play for him today if he called and asked."

Patricia has strengthened his personal relationships with his players the past two years. The Lions have presented a united front in 2020, with the team coming together during a tumultuous offseason. Both Matt Prater and Taylor Decker were quoted by Bleacher Report vouching for Patricia's growth.

Whether that leads to legitimate on-field improvement remains to be seen. The Lions are 4-5 and on the fringes of the playoff race after a last-second win over Washington in Week 10.