Ameer Abdullah traveled a slow and meticulous road back to health after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery in January.
He didn't participate in any of the OTAs or minicamp practices. When he finally got back on the field at the start of training camp, he was asked to wear a red "no contact" jersey for the first three weeks. After finally ditching the red jersey and getting a chance to play in the Lions' third preseason game, he received a grand total of four carries.
It would be a bit of an understatement to say Abdullah is ready to tote the rock Sunday in Indianapolis.
"Very eager," he said this week. "I haven't played a full game in a while. Football is back. It feels good to get things going on the right end of things. Just to carry the ball more than four times."
But just how many carries he'll get this week, and subsequent Sundays to follow, is a bit of a mystery.
He's never carried the ball more than 16 times in a game, and it looks like he'll again be part of a back-by-committee approach, with Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington also in the mix.
"I don't envision him carrying the ball 30 times in a ballgame," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Abdullah. "I think he's capable, certainly, but that's not his strength.
"Do I think that he's durable enough to do it? Absolutely. Do I think he's strong enough to do it? Absolutely. I just don't think that's his cup of tea, but he'll be effective for us."
Abdullah is most effective when the Lions are finding ways to get him the ball all over the field. He's a good receiver out of the backfield, and he led the NFL in kickoff return yards last year, though it's unclear if he'll continue that role in 2016.
Abdullah emerged as the Lions' top running back last season after getting over some early fumbling issues. He led the team with 597 yards on the ground and 1,857 all-purpose yards (including over 1,000 kickoff return yards). He was particularly strong running the football the second half of the season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry over that stretch.
"We keep an eye on all our guys, you know, how many reps we're playing," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "We'll have a discussion going into every game and we'll have a plan going in for each position.
"Now every position's a little bit different, running back being one of those. You've got a couple guys that have some experience, have done some good things, will play different roles in this game for us, so we'll be keeping an eye on all sorts of guys."
Lions receiver Anquan Boldin, Colts rush linebacker Robert Mathis and Colts running back Frank Gore have 40 years of NFL experience between them, and even at the twilight of their respective careers, the trio will play big roles for their teams on Sunday.
Boldin, 35, is one of just 13 players in NFL history with at least 1,000 career receptions (1,009). He's the Lions' starting slot receiver, and is expected to have a big impact over the middle of the field.
Mathis, 35, ranks fourth among active players with 118 sacks. Even in his 14th season, Mathis enters Sunday's matchup with the Lions as the Colts' best pass rusher.
Gore, 33, leads all active players with 12,040 rushing yards. He led the Colts last year with 967 yards and enters the season as the team's top running back.
"They are unusual physically, they are built, they're rugged men that are built to withstand the rigors of this game, which is hard to do for that length of time," Caldwell said of the trio.
"Those three guys are quite unusual, smart people that take care of their bodies, work extremely hard. They don't have a whole lot of other distractions in their life other than the game and their families. They've made an impact, that's for sure."
Captains for the Lions' Week 1 matchup in Indianapolis are: quarterback Matthew Stafford, safety Glover Quin and long snapper Don Muhlbach.