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Not too long ago, running back Joique Bell was a young journeyman, looking to establish himself with the Lions and stick on the roster.

Now, Bell, in his fifth season in Detroit, is the projected starter and the most experienced veteran in the Lions backfield corps.

Bell, a Wayne State product, has played in 47 of 48 games in the last three seasons and had a career-best 860 yards last season, while splitting duties with Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick and George Winn.

With Bush's release in the offseason, Bell is the new bell cow. But Bell is going to miss the relationship that he built with Bush in their time together in the backfield.

"It's different. We grew a bond over the past couple of years," Bell said Wednesday, after not participating in organized team activities. "Started off as teammates and ended up being brothers; we still keep in contact to this day. It's a hard loss but the young guys are stepping up."

But Bell is ready for the challenges that a new season will bring in trying to lead a young cadre of running backs, including Riddick, who is projected to take on some of the carries and catches out of the backfield that Bush had.

"He's looking good and stepping up to be a leader," Bell said. "They're both playing the same position but bring something different to the table. Theo plays his best game when he plays as himself and not trying to implement anyone else's game."

Rookie second-round pick Ameer Abdullah likely will fit into the scheme as well, but the mix will be determined as the offseason progresses.

It'll be a different feel for Bell, as he recovers from offseason surgery.

"I'm definitely the vet in the room now. It's weird to think," he said. "I'm accepting all challenges thrown my way and it's something new on my end but I'm going to thrive at it like I do anything."

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

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