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O'HARA: Abdullah looks ready for regular-season action

Ameer Abdullah was one of the last players to leave the Detroit Lions' locker room Friday night, and he was in no hurry to break away as the modest group of reporters surrounding him grew.

The questions kept coming, and so did the answers – detailed, reflective answers, which is the norm for Abdullah.

Abdullah was in a good mood, and for good reason. He is healthy, and based on his abbreviated performance in the Lions' 30-28 loss to the Patriots in preseason Game 3 at Ford Field, he's prepared to start the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals as the Lions' lead tailback.

Abdullah played the first half and one possession of the third quarter and gave an indication – make that a reminder from his rookie year in 2015 – of what he can add to the offense.

His overall stats for the game were good, not spectacular. He carried 13 times for 60 yards, with a 4.6-yard average per carry, and had three receptions for 39 yards. He had a long run of 12 yards, and the three receptions went for gains of 14, 18 and seven yards.

It added up to 99 yards from scrimmage – a good night's work, and most likely Abdullah's last game action until the regular-season opener.

It was enough work, and production, for Abdullah to accomplish what he wanted to in training camp and the preseason.

"I'm just trying to be the guy they need me to be in any situation," Abdullah said.

Abdullah is mindful of how long the running game has been a weak link in the Lions' offense, and how improving it has been a primary focus for all involved.

A lot will fall on Abdullah's shoulders in his return from a season-ending foot injury sustained in the second quarter of the second game last season. He was on the way to a productive season when he was hurt. In six quarters he had 101 yards rushing and 57 receiving, with a 5.6-yard average per carry and 11.4 receiving with one TD catch.

With Abdullah healthy, the Lions have a solid rotation at running back. It lacks stars, but there's depth in the rotation.

Abdullah is the No. 1 dual threat as a runner-receiver. Theo Riddick is one of the NFL's top receivers out of the backfield. Dwayne Washington can provide a power back with speed, while still developing a knack for finding openings. And Zach Zenner is a capable, dependable back who can fill multiple roles.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was persistent with the running game Friday night. When the Lions got the ball for their last possession of the first half facing a 24-0 deficit, he called a mix of running plays instead of throwing on every down.

With the Patriots No. 1 defense on the field, the Lions began the possession at their 20 with 4:02 left. Abdullah carried on the first two plays, for gains of six and four yards and a first down. Two plays later, Abdullah turned a short pass to the right into an 18-yard gain with a burst of speed.

Matthew Stafford finished off the possession with two completions – 22 yards to Golden Tate, and 23 to Marvin Jones Jr. for the touchdown.

The No. 1 offense played one more possession before calling it a night. A nine-play, 88-yard drive to start the second half ended in Washington's 18-yard catch and run for a TD.

Abdullah had carries of 12, 12 and three yards and a catch for seven yards in that possession.

Abdullah had only one carry in the game for negative yardage – a one-yard loss on his third carry. Throughout the game, he was persistent in hurling his body into the mosh pit of oversized human beings in front of him to find holes.

Abdullah quoted what his father, Kareem, has told him about running the ball.

"If everybody falls down at the snap, at least get three," Ameer said. "That's kind of my attitude when I'm back there."

He never settled for anything, or considered a play over until it actually was over. And it was obvious that he was finding a groove as the game went on. His last seven carries gained 46 yards.

There are games and battles within the game in the preseason, regardless of the score or outcome, and Abdullah had a passing grade for how he ran and caught the ball.

"I think he does what he does," said head coach Jim Caldwell. "He creates, being able to get in seams – tight seams – and he creates yardage for you. He'll make a guy miss here and there, and I think he's just been coming along.

"You can see he's got his quickness and those things, his elusiveness back."

After playing just two snaps in the first preseason game and 12 in the second, Abdullah played 26 snaps against the Patriots, which would be a normal load in the regular season through one possession of the third quarter.

All of it was with the No. 1 offensive line in front of him except for the one possession of the second half, when right guard T.J. Lang was out of the game.

In all that mayhem up front, there's a rhythm and timing that can only be gained through practice time and game action.

"I still feel like there is a lot for me to prove to this team that I can run the ball, as well as the other guys," Abdullah said. "I feel like we have a lot to prove to our team, that we can trust the running game. We've got '9' (Stafford). I feel like he can pick apart any defense.

"We have to help him out."

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