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O'HARA: Abdullah controlling what he can with work ethic, determination

Ameer Abdullah is conceding nothing and asking for nothing in the competition among the Detroit Lions' running backs.

That should come as no surprise to anyone who has observed how Abdullah conducts himself in all situations – from good to bad – in his first three seasons with the Lions.

The fact that he'll be at peace with however the battle for jobs and roles in training camp and preseason games shakes out should be no surprise either.

He'll control what he can control with his work ethic and determination.

"That's all you can do," Abdullah said after Sunday's practice, the first in full pads in the Rocket Mortgage training camp.

"If anyone can control tomorrow, please teach me. I've been trying to master that. I don't think anyone can."

The status of the Lions' running game, and the efforts to improve it, might be the single most talked about and scrutinized issue of any of Detroit's four major professional sports teams. No facet has escaped analysis.

What potentially affects Abdullah most as he prepares for his fourth season are the offseason personnel moves made to ramp up competition. Veteran LeGarrette Blount was signed to add a short-yardage power back. Kerryon Johnson, who led the SEC in rushing in 2017, was drafted in the second round out of Auburn.

There are four returning tailbacks – Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and Abdullah. Nick Bellore, a linebacker and special teams ace his first seven seasons, has been moved to fullback permanently after getting spot duty there last year.

In a recent interview on WJR-AM 760, general manager Bob Quinn said he expects to keep five running backs. He did not specify if a fullback is one of the five.

In either case, the squeeze is on for jobs and playing time.

Abdullah has his eyes on his own job and responsibilities, not the snap count or where he stands on the depth chart.

"I have to focus on myself," he said. "Everybody has to build individually to accomplish the team goal we have to set out. That's how I approach it – just focusing on myself.

"It may sound cliched, but that's all you can do. You can only control yourself in life. That's the only way we're going to mesh as a team. Focus on yourself."

Abdullah has some things going for himself in the competition. He has led the Lions in rushing in two of his three seasons. He rushed for 557 yards and a solid 4.2-yard average per carry as a rookie in 2015 and 552 yards and a 3.3-yard average in 2017.

He was off to a good start in 2016 before going out for the season with a foot injury in Week 2. At the time he'd rushed for 101 yards and a 5.6-yard average along with five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.

He's also shown value on kickoff returns. As a rookie, Abdullah had a league-high 37 kickoff returns for a 29.2-yard average, with four returns of 40 yards or longer. Among qualified returners, he was second to the Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson's 31.8-yard average. Abdullah had only six kickoff returns last year.

What doesn't show up on any stats sheet is Abdullah's character.

Before the 2015 draft, when the Lions drafted him in the second round, a scout for an AFC North team was quoted as follows on NFL.com: "He has the highest overall character grade I've ever given to a prospect and includes both football and character off-the-field."

Characteristically, Abdullah appreciated the comment when asked about it Sunday.

"That means a lot," he said. "I pride myself on being a man of integrity. Of course, we're all human. We all make mistakes."

Abdullah added a touch of humor: "Is that what he's saying – I'm a good guy?"

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