Gunther Cunningham has been coaching defenses in the NFL far too long to get overly excited or form any binding impressions during OTAs and non-contact minicamp practices.

So his words, as he talked about defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, the fifth overall pick in the draft, were tempered with a disclaimer — other than at the Senior Bowl and on film, he hasn’t seen him actually play real tackle football.

“He’s got a good feel for the game,” Cunningham said Wednesday, the first time he’s spoken publicly about Ansah and the other defensive players drafted by the Lions. “A lot of people say it’s instincts. I’ve never heard of a human being having those (instincts to play defensive end). Maybe I’m wrong. Some doctor’s going to call me saying you’ve got to learn things.

“But he has good eyes, you know, he sees the game and he shows up on some plays and amazes me. He has unique ability to slip gaps and show up. The tough thing right now is we don’t have pads on. That’s when the real thing’s going to be in front of him. Hopefully, he’ll be as good as we thought he was.”

What is obvious to Cunningham, though, is Ansah’s seriousness and sense of purpose. He is here, Cunningham said, for one reason — to be a great football player.

“The upside of Ziggy Ansah is his character; there is no doubt in my mind about that,” Cunningham said. “Those kids that come over like he does (from another country and culture, Ghana), they’re on a mission. It’s not just, ‘Well, you know, I get a chance to play in the NFL.’ He made a path to go to the NFL and he worked hard to get here.

“He has tremendous physical talents. ... What we need to do is get into preseason and find out.”

Ansah’s mental acuity has also impressed. Though he played only three years of football at BYU, he has not been overwhelmed by all the coaching staff has thrown at him.

“They asked him to do more things (at BYU) than any college player I’ve ever seen in that position,” Cunningham said. “He played every position up front, and he is very aware of football. I don’t know how he learned all those things that quickly.