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Optimism about Lions' Abdullah takes a hit

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Ameer Abdullah fumbles the ball in the first quarter Sunday.

Allen Park — Lions rookie running back Ameer Abdullah looked like he might be one of the team's bright spots this season, expected to boost the running game and provide a complement to Joique Bell. He had 50 yards on seven carries, including a touchdown run in the opening loss to the Chargers.

That optimism has fizzled since the opening week, with Abdullah, a second-round pick, gaining just 82 yards in four games; he managed just 17 yards in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals. Abdullah had two fumbles — and lost one — and was benched, giving way to rookie Zack Zenner, who had 10 carries for 30 yards.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he still has confidence in Abdullah, who had fumbling issues at Nebraska. But much like Caldwell's benching of quarterback Matthew Stafford after three interceptions, he holds the players accountable for turnovers.

"Yesterday was a reduced role. We took him out of the game because he put it on the ground too many times — he's got to earn it," Caldwell said Monday.

Going forward, Caldwell isn't down on Abdullah, but saw that Sunday wasn't his day. Caldwell is confident the rookie will have better days ahead.

Stafford won't be on short leash, now or in future

"He's going to be a good back," he said. "There have been a number of guys early on that had some issues with taking care of the ball. He's one of the young guys and it's time to learn.

"From a physical standpoint, he's capable and he's quick but he's got to be able to hang on to that football."

The Lions totaled 57 yards on the ground Sunday and rank last in the league in rushing.