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Lions’ Abdullah isn’t threatened by competition

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Lions didn’t sign a running back this offseason. LeGarrette Blount, the last notable name on the market, agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. The Lions didn’t draft a back either. Those decisions served as a clear vote of confidence in Ameer Abdullah, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2015.

While there’s value in the organizational support, Abdullah said he wasn’t threatened by talk of increasing competition for his job.

“It doesn’t bother me to talk about that stuff, but at the same time, I don’t really care what really happened, because I feel like I’m a better player than whoever they were going to bring in,” Abdullah said, speaking at the team’s “Taste of the Lions” event at Ford Field. “It didn’t matter to me. That’s just me being a player and a competitor.

“I wasn’t really counting on (the team not adding someone), I was counting on myself to do the things that I needed to do to be healthy so when the time came to compete, with whoever it was.”

After a rookie season that saw him carry the ball just 143 times, the Lions named Abdullah the starter heading into last season. The decision looked to be a wise one after he gained 110 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown in the opener, a 39-35 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but disaster struck in Week 2, when he broke his foot while spinning to avoid a tackle.

The injury required surgery, but the Lions held out hope he could return late in the season. It wasn’t until late February or early March that Abdullah said he felt back to normal.

Abdullah had been a highly durable player throughout his career, and this was the first time he had missed a game at any level due to injury. His absence from the lineup, while frustrating, only served to reinvigorate his passion for the game.

The youngest of nine children, Abdullah credited his family and his faith for helping him navigate the doldrums of being sidelined.

“Sometimes you need to miss the game to realize how much you love it,” he said. “I’ve always been passionate about this game, but missing last year was huge for me. I’ve had a lot of time to sit down and think and watch a lot of football, and a lot of times, I was depressed.

“Felt like I let a lot of people down because I wasn’t out there. And anytime you feel like that, you know you really love this game. So, having the opportunity to come back, OTAs coming up pretty soon, that’s huge for me. I’m not taking anything for granted.”

Earlier this week, teammate Eric Ebron talked about placing an emphasis on staying healthy. The young tight end believes if he can stay on the field, there’s no reason he can’t have his best season. Abdullah echoed those sentiments.

He also plans on stepping up as a leader in the locker room.

“I feel the same way,” Abdullah said. “Last year was a great start. I got cut short pretty early, but I can take a lot from last year. I was a lot more confident heading into the year, a lot more poised.

“Heading into year three, I’m taking a more vocal role, letting guys know that if you want to be a good team, we’ve got to do it together,” he said. “That’s something I feel the element of the team, the dynamic of the team is really changing, understanding we have to lean on each other. I feel like if we all stay healthy, we can be a really good team.”

For his career, Abdullah has averaged 4.3 yards per carry. In 18 games, he’s also caught 30 passes for 240 yards and two scores.