It has been eight long months since running back Ameer Abdullah last played in a game or participated in full team drills on the field for the Detroit Lions after suffering a foot injury on Sept. 18 last year that required season-ending surgery.
The Lions kick off the OTA portion of their offseason schedule this week, which means they can operate 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 team drills. It's the portion of the offseason that starts to resemble football again.
Abdullah told reporters at last week's Taste of the Lions event that he felt like he let a lot of people down last season having to watch from the sidelines. The Lions finished the season 30th in rushing.
Abdullah certainly seems motivated to have a bounce-back season, and is ready to get back on the field and start competing again.
"I would say about early March late February (I was back on the field)," Abdullah said. "We're still progressing with things, but I feel good now. We got time to take our time right now, but we're attacking this thing and I'm expecting to be full go, which I have been.
"I'm just going to work my tail off and be the best back I can in the situations I'll be given this year. This year, I'm really attacking things with a more focused mindset to get everything done."
The Lions seem to expect the third-year back to play a featured role in their offense in 2017. General manager Bob Quinn didn't sign or draft a running back this offseason, and said after the draft that Abdullah was his starter heading into the season.
Abdullah was averaging 5.6 yards per carry last season before suffering the injury Week 2 against Tennessee. He also caught caught five passes for 57 yards.
Durability has never been an issue for Abdullah before he got to the NFL. He didn't miss a single game in four years at Nebraska.
He played in all 16 games (nine starts) as a rookie with the Lions, but played through a shoulder injury late in the year that required offseason surgery. Then came the foot injury early last season. That's two major surgeries in the same calendar year.
It's not unlike what quarterback Matthew Stafford went through his first two seasons in the NFL. Stafford's durability was never questioned in high school or in college at Georgia, but shoulder and knee injuries his first two seasons in Detroit limited him to just 13 games his first two years. Since then, he's started every game the last six seasons and has become one of the more durable quarterbacks in the league.
Playing running back obviously puts more wear and tear on the body, but Abdullah is hoping he can similarly leave the major injuries behind him.
"It's just making sure you're taking care of the little things," Abdullah said. "I've never been a guy who had maintenance issues like hamstrings, quads, none of the abdominal issues. I've never had that. It was a freak act last year, from that you do get soreness from time to time, just make sure you stay on top of that."
The Lions were expecting Abdullah to carry the ball upwards of 200 times last season as their lead back. If the expectations are the same this season, Abdullah is ready and eager to prove he's up to the task.