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ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Ameer Abdullah spent a few months in the doghouse last year because of fumble problems, but the Detroit Lions running back admitted when he returned for training camp this year that the problem wasn’t just with his hands.
“It became a mental thing more so than anything,” Abdullah said. “I was expecting myself to fumble sometimes, because it was a lot of pressure at times being a rookie running back, being the guy who got most of the carries last year.”
Abdullah fumbled five times as a rookie, losing two of them, but four of his fumbles came in a six-game span early in the season.
With ball security an issue, Abdullah saw his playing time shrink under then-offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and he only regained his spot atop the depth chart at running back after a conversation with soon-to-be Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
“LaDainian straight up told me, he was like, ‘Bro, I think you’re overthinking it,'” Abdullah said. “You’re here for a reason. You’re wearing No. 21 for a reason.’ That’s what he was saying. And that kind of just like, ‘Boom. Alright, L.T. I appreciate it.'”
Abdullah lost just one fumble in the second half of last season, when he finally supplanted Joique Bell as the Lions’ full-time starter. He finished the year with a team-high 597 yards rushing and a healthy 4.2 yards per carry average, and he played through a torn shoulder labrum late in the season that eventually required surgery.
That procedure, done in January by Dr. James Andrews, kept Abdullah off the field all spring and has subjected him to a red no-contact jersey he’s eager to shed this summer.
“Obviously, anytime you have any kind of surgery, you’re not going to trust it right off the bat because you went through a healing process and you haven’t done much,” Abdullah said. “Just getting back at it, trusting it and mentally being confident in it every single day, it’s a bigger issue that lies ahead of me rather than physical, which is a good thing.”
As for the fumbles, both the Lions and Abdullah, who had similar problems in college – he had 23 fumbles (16 lost) in four seasons at Nebraska – are hopeful that they won’t be an issue any more.
Abdullah hasn’t lost a fumble to this point in training camp, and running backs coach David Walker said he emphasizes ball security with Abdullah and the rest of his running backs every day.
“Sometimes something goes wrong and you think maybe I don’t belong here, maybe this, maybe this,” Abdullah said. “But you can’t be a maybe, maybe, maybe guy. You can’t be that because you got to get back to why you were here. You were chosen, you were picked for a reason, you were selected for a reason, you’re here for a reason. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t deserve to be here so don’t ever doubt your circumstance because the Lord doesn’t make mistakes.”