July 29, 2014 at 11:15 am

New staff means fresh start, 'fair game' for Lions RB Mikel Leshoure

Allen Park — A few weeks into the 2013 season, Mikel Leshoure realized he wasn’t going to have a role in the Lions’ backfield.

As trade rumors surfaced, the 2011 second-round pick said he’d be interested in going somewhere he’d have a chance to play, but the Lions kept Leshoure around.

Now, with a new coaching staff in Detroit, Leshoure has a clean slate and no longer has the desire to switch teams.

“I feel like I’ll get a role somewhere (with the Lions), so I’m going to think about that right now,” Leshoure said Monday.

Finding a role will be difficult for Leshoure, but there are some reasons for optimism.

Running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush will be the primary backs, and Theo Riddick will likely be active each week because of his ability on special teams. But if offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi deploys his backs like the New Orleans Saints did -- that’s where he coached the past seven years -- the Lions could find a role for four backs.

“(The new coaches) give everybody a fresh start and a fresh chance,” Leshoure said. “I feel like that’s what I needed. I feel like it’s fair game now, and I can just go out there and compete.”

Unfortunately for Leshoure, the most likely way for him to have a big role is with an injury to the backs ahead of him -- unless he dominates in training camp.

“He’s certainly running well at this stage,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We like what we see, and it’s early yet. If a guy can perform and play well, there’s always room for another good back because he’s a talented guy.”

While the Lions had concurrent practices going on the two fields outside team headquarters Monday, Bell, Bush and Leshoure played with the first and second teams, so the new staff is giving Leshoure a chance to impress.

In 2012, Leshoure was the Lions’ starter and had 215 carries for 798 yards and nine touchdowns. He admitted he could’ve played better because his Achilles injury that cost him his rookie season was still bothering him.

Leshoure also had 34 catches for 214 yards that season, but it was clear the Lions trusted Bell more as a receiver. Then Bush arrived as a free agent last season, and he and Bell earned nearly all of the work as Leshoure was active just three games and had two carries.

“I definitely think I can show more,” he said. “I only played one year in the NFL, so besides college highlights and stuff like that, it’s not too much NFL film that I have.”

This offseason Leshoure said he continued to work on his catching skills because he’s confident he can be used out of the backfield. He also tried to improve his short burst and footwork.

The preseason games will be critical for Leshoure because, as he noted, he hasn’t been on the field in a while. And with training camp underway, Leshoure thinks he can control how much of a role he has in 2014.

“I feel like a lot of it was out of my hands,” he said of last season. “It wasn’t anything I did on my part as far as discipline. It was just the coach’s decision, and he’s gone. So I’ll just leave that at that.”



Mikel Leshoure: '(The new coaches) give everybody a fresh start and a fresh chance. I feel like that's what I needed.' / Daniel Mears / Detroit News