ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ameer Abdullah barely touched the ball in the preseason. He wore a red no-contact jersey during a majority of practices. In games, he received four total carries before watching from the sidelines the rest of the way.
But now, the regular season is here. And Abdullah is ready to handle whatever the Detroit Lions want him to handle. That should mean more carries, more catches and potentially kick returns as well.
“Very eager,” Abdullah said. “I haven’t played a full game in a while. Football’s back and it always feels good to get things going on the right end of things, just to carry the ball more than four times.”
Abdullah enters his second season in Detroit as the team’s top running back and based on what the Lions showed this preseason, he’s sorely needed as a back who can handle a large amount of work. Theo Riddick remains a pass-catching back who struggles to run inside. Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington have roles and at least one will be active on game days, but neither ran with the first team during the preseason.
On early downs, figure Abdullah will be the back, as he offers the Lions the best combination of rusher and receiver. It’s what the Lions drafted him in the second round in 2015 to become. He showed what he’s capable of doing in the season opener last year.
He doesn’t remember too much about it, but he had a cutback run against San Diego that resulted in his first touchdown.
“I kind of black out in those kind of situations,” Abdullah said. “I’m so serious, like OK, I never even know what I’m going to do. I just do it and I just look back like, ‘Man, I did that. All right.’ “
The Lions hope to see more of those types of moves in 2016. It showed a glimpse of promise of what he could become, even if it never materialized last season as the Lions were the worst rushing team in the league.
While Abdullah is clearly Detroit’s best option at running back, don’t expect him to carry the ball like Adrian Peterson or Doug Martin. The Lions aren’t planning on anything like that for him. Not even close.
He’ll get his touches. Just not like a traditional lead back might.
“I don’t envision him carrying the ball 30 times in a ballgame,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think he’s capable, certainly, but that’s not his strength. I think he’s one of those guys that you have to get it to him a number of different ways.
“Do I think he’s durable enough to do it? Absolutely. Do I think he’s strong enough to do it? Absolutely. But I just don’t think that’s his cup of tea.”