O'HARA: Abdullah wants to see preseason action

Posted Aug 25, 2016

For fans of the Detroit Lions who want to see Ameer Abdullah play in one of the team’s last two preseason games, know that you have company.

For fans of the Detroit Lions who want to see Ameer Abdullah play in one of the team’s last two preseason games, know that you have company.

“So does my father (Kareem)," Abdullah said Wednesday – and not entirely joking.

Like father, like son?

“I would like to very much,” Abdullah answered quickly.

Abdullah wasn’t joking when he said that. He has not enjoyed being a spectator for the first two preseason games. Abdullah has taken part in practice since the start of training camp, but the Lions are being cautious about exposing him to full contact while he recovers fully from a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.

In addition to being held out of game action, he wore a red jersey in practice for the first two weeks of training camp to reinforce to teammates that he was off limits to full contact.

There seems to be little doubt that he’ll play in the regular-season opener at Indianapolis. But he didn’t like being on the sideline for the first two games, or the prospect of being in the same role for the next two – at Baltimore Saturday night and the finale vs. Buffalo a week from Thursday.

“It does bother me a lot,” Abdullah said. “I love this game. Since I was young, all I’ve known is football. Not having football to rely on fully for the past couple of weeks, it’s been tough.

“Now I feel like I’m ready to play.”

There are legitimate reasons fans want to see Abdullah play. He had a promising rookie season. There were some flaws – most notably an issue with ball security – but overall he has a level of play-making ability that no other runner on the roster can match.

“He’s an explosive guy,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said earlier in the week. “For a guy that’s not a huge guy (5-9, 203 pounds), he’s a really good runner, actually, between the tackles.

“He does a great job in there -- great in the pass game as well. He’s an all-around guy that can really help us.”

Improving a running game that ranked last in the NFL last year has been a primary focus of the Lions. General manager Bob Quinn drafted three offensive linemen, starting with left tackle Taylor Decker of Ohio State in the first round.

But among those who’ll actually carry the ball, a big share of the load rests on Abdullah’s shoulders based on how he played as a rookie and the improvement he should make this year as the No. 1 tailback.

Abdullah rushed for a team-high 597 yards while splitting time with Joique Bell. His average of 4.2 yards per carry was almost a half yard higher than the team average of 3.8. Abdullah added 25 catches for 183 yards and an average of 7.3 yards per catch.

He made major impact on kickoff returns, averaging 29.1 yards on 37 returns. A 104-yard return in Game 9 at Green Bay set up a touchdown that helped the Lions win their first road game against the Packers since 1991.

Abdullah was in good spirits in a somewhat lengthy give-and-take session with the media in front of his locker Wednesday. He took care not to reveal any plans for how he might be used – or not used – in the preseason.

But has he campaigned to play with head coach Jim Caldwell or offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter?

“I sit back,” he said. “I’m not a veteran, really. I’m only approaching my second year. Whatever I say doesn’t matter. At this point, I don’t carry much weight with what I say.”

Can he imagine starting the regular season at Indianapolis without playing in a preseason game?

“I’ve never done so,” he said. “So I guess I can’t imagine it.”

What is the value of the preseason action in preparation for the regular season?

“Just playing,” Abdullah said. “Everything’s about repetition in life. You can’t expect to do well on a test if you haven’t studied. I’ll be tested against Indy. I hope I get to play (in the preseason). If I don’t have the opportunity, I’m going to trust what the coaches have in store for me and do my best when the time comes.”

Tested against Indy? Was that a hint that it’s already been decided that he’ll miss all of the preseason?

“I was speaking hypothetically,” Abdullah said. “You’re listening too hard.”