In point of fact, he was only on the active roster for four games, the two he played and two others when he was active but did not participate.
Now, with Whittle and starting right tackle Mike Rosenthal departed via the Unrestricted Free Agent route (Whittle to Tampa Bay, Rosenthal to Minnesota), a healthy Zeigler would provide a strong sense of comfort to the offensive coaches and quarterback Kerry Collins.
But the implications are that Zeigler isn't ready, may not even want to work hard enough to get ready, and might in fact be released at any time.
"I hope he comes back," says starting left tackle Luke Petitgout. "We need a guy like him. He was a veteran and an anchor and I hope he works hard enough to be able to recapture what he once had."
It is becoming unlikely, and even offensive line coach Jim McNally, the "genius" who bears the nickname "Mouse," sounds less certain of the return of the seven-year, 6-5, 305-pound veteran.
"You know, everybody was surprised and pleased with the way young Chris (Bober, 6-5, 320) took over and played the center spot," he said. "In fact, he is so smart and works so hard he directed the traffic like a veteran. Kerry (quarterback Collins) loves him and feels great confidence in him."
Which is kind of too bad, in a way. Bober's first job was as a backup tackle, and with Rosenthal gone, he would be the perfect candidate to return to that old station and nail it down. But with Zeigler a question, Bober will stay at center, opening the job to others who are far from being household names.
"Nobody knew what we knew about our kids last year," said McNally, who had to replace right guard Ron Stone, left guard Glenn Parker, left tackle Lomas Brown and Zeigler, and in a sense he had another "new player" in Petitgout, who shifted from right to left tackle.
"I saw them work together all during the offseason," McNally added. "I knew how smart they were, how dedicated they were and how hard they worked, and nobody can coach that into a kid."
Now he starts over again, with the only certainties Petitgout, Bober and left guard Rich Seubert.
At tackle, he will choose from Ian Allen, Barrett Brooks, the monstrous Char-ron Dorsey (6-6, 375) and Jeffrey Hatch, the team's third-round draft pick from Penn last year who missed the entire season because of spinal surgery.
McNally, who has coached the O-line in the NFL for 23 years, has a "genius" reputation and proved it last year. Now he has to start all over again, just when he thought he had built a strong, young line that would withstand the ravages of time and free agency.