Lions running back George Winn looks to secure his role

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions running back George Winn kept two hands on the football Sunday as he took his carries through the line of scrimmage. With two fumbles in exhibition games this summer, he knew ball security was his top priority in his NFL debut.

"I think I needed to do that to have a job this week," Winn said Monday.

Each play Winn had in Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Bills was an opportunity to show why he deserved to remain on the 53-man roster, and in the back of his mind, he was thinking about the possibility it could've been his only game with his hometown team.

"I feel like anything I do I'm doing it for my job, so there's always a sense of urgency there," he said.

Winn, a U-D Jesuit graduate, had 11 carries for 48 yards in Sunday's game, an impressive showing just days after being promoted from the Lions practice squad. With Reggie Bush (ankle), Joique Bell (concussion) and Theo Riddick (hamstring) all injured, Winn should have a chance to continue earning a role Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Though he didn't play special teams Sunday, Winn could also be an option to help fill the void left by Montell Owens, who's on injured reserve.

In many ways, the Lions have seen this story before. Bell, a Benton Harbor native who played at Wayne State, signed with the Lions in December 2011, his fifth team after going undrafted in 2010.

Winn joined the Lions in July, his sixth team after going undrafted in 2013. He didn't make the 53-man roster out of training camp, but with 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns in exhibition games, he proved worthy of a practice squad spot, which kept him one play away from his first NFL game.

Bell played special teams for the Eagles and Colts in 2010, but didn't play on offense until his Lions debut in 2012. In his first game, his only touch was a 1-yard touchdown run, but he flashed potential in Week 2 with 73 yards on eight touches, though the Lions lost to the San Francisco 49ers.

Winn's debut didn't lead to a Lions victory but showed he can perform in the NFL.

"We didn't pull that win out, but you can't overlook what he did out there," Bell said. "And it's too bad he's not going to get the credit he deserves."

Bell's role continued to expand in 2012, and he and Reggie Bush have split running back duties since last year with Bell being the more powerful of the two. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Winn runs with similar strength.

"He's a hard runner," Bell said. "He's been around the league, and you can tell when he runs, he runs with the same kind of passion. You can tell he's from this area, just a working man, a blue-collar guy.

"It's good to see him go out there and make good with his opportunity. You might be seeing a lot more of him this year; you never know."

Winn had some family members at Ford Field on Sunday to watch his debut, and many more watched on television. Overall, he thought he played well but knows he can still improve.

He just hopes to have another chance.

"It was really exciting to be out there," he said. "I think I was more excited to make other people excited to see me out there than I was to be out there actually. It was fun."