Lions' Abdullah shrugs off improvement: 'I see it as doing my job'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions running back Ameer Abdullah's rookie season has produced mixed results.

In the first six games, he fumbled four times and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. In the past nine games, he's fumbled just once and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

One area where Abdullah has contributed consistently is on kickoff returns, and entering the final week of the season, he leads the NFL with a 30.7-yard average per return.

But as Abdullah reflected on his rookie season, he hardly seemed proud of what he's done.

"I'm a weird person; I see things differently," he said Wednesday. "I don't really see what I do on the field as accomplishments. I see it as my job. So, I feel like I've been doing my job, but to be a good employee, you have to do your job at a high level all the time.

"I want to be a person that's doing more than just my job."

Like Caldwell, Lions players face uncertain futures

Abdullah, who said it took time adjusting to the speed in the NFL, has been the Lions' best rusher this season with 133 carries for 553 yards. At 4.2 yards per carry, he's the only back on the team with an average higher than the league's 4-yard benchmark, and he leads the team with four carries of 20-plus yards.

A second-round pick who was the fourth running back taken in the draft, Abdullah ranks sixth among rookies in rushing, but coach Jim Caldwell has been encouraged by his improvement.

"He hasn't scratched the surface of where's he's going to be," Caldwell said. "He's really going to be pretty special."

Abdullah also has 24 catches for 176 yards and three total touchdowns this year, and with 944 return yards, he ranks third among Lions rookies with 1,625 all-purpose yards, granted Billy Sims (1,907) and Barry Sanders (1,870) gained most of their yards on offense.

Abdullah wouldn't take much credit for his success as a returner, saying he just runs while the blockers do the hard work. Caldwell, though, praised his speed, vision and aggressiveness as a returner.

"Cracks don't stay open long in this league in terms of kick returns, so you've got to get in there quickly and make some things happen," Caldwell said. "And I think he's been doing that."

At 28.9 yards per kickoff, the Lions have the best average in the NFL.

"As long as no one's better than us, I guess we can't complain," he said.