By: Will Burchfield
Ameer Abdullah lobbied for more goal-line opportunities in the lead-up to Detroit’s game against Green Bay on Monday and he made good on his first, taking a pitch into the end zone from four yards out.
But he fumbled on his second, a first-down carry from the one-yard line early in the fourth quarter, marking his second fumble of the game. It would be his last rushing attempt of the night.
Fumbles were a problem for Abdullah in college and his rookie season, but he’s since taken better care of the ball. He doesn’t feel the need to make a statement after the issue popped back up versus the Packers.
“Nah, I don’t have to prove anything. I mean, it’s my first fumbles of the year, it’s (game) eight, you know what I’m saying? I’m an NFL starting running back, it’s going to happen. It’s funny you guys (the media) make a big deal about it all the time, but that’s your job. I’m not changing anything I do though,” Abdullah said.
Abdullah is a confident person by nature, and no number of fumbles could change that. But his self-assurance after putting the ball on the ground twice versus the Packers may have been bolstered by the fact that the first mistake wasn’t really his fault.
Abdullah only lost the ball after he appeared to be down by contact beneath a pile of bodies, and some replays suggest the whistle had already been blown.
“It definitely blew,” Abdullah said. “I’m actually trying to stop moving so the play can be dead.”
Abdullah said he brought this up with the ref, but added, “They have a hard job too. How the heck is he going to see that, 11 guys piled up on a 198-pound dude? You know what I mean? It is what it is. Move on and get better.”
Jim Caldwell said on Thursday he can only live with a fumble if it’s “completely unavoidable.”
“I haven’t seen one of those yet that can solve the whole problem by not letting it loose until you hand it to an official,” he added. “Late whistle, whatever that might be, we certainly aren’t looking for any excuses in that regard.”
Abdullah, 24, has been slapped with two primary labels in his young NFL career: injury-prone and fumble-prone. The first ignores the fact that he played four full seasons in college and a full season in his first year with the Lions. The second, well, Abdullah is doing his best to shake it. He had gone 154 carries without a fumble prior to his mishaps on Monday, a stretch that dated back to the 2015 season.
He laughed good-naturedly at how quickly people assign labels in the NFL.
“Of course, of course. I mean, that’s the nature of the NFL, man,” Abdullah said. “The NFL is flyby whatever’s going on. If I go out there and I rush for 280 next game, they’re going to be like, ‘He’s one of the best backs in the league.’ But I don’t get caught up in that because most of the people who are making those labels aren’t even playing. Those aren’t even people who could ever step in my shoes or ever do anything on this level.
“You have to be thick-skinned enough in this league to understand the people with the biggest opinions are the ones who mean the least, because anyone can talk, talk, talk.”
Abdullah shouldered the blame for his second fumble versus Green Bay, explaining afterward he was “being stupid” by trying to reach the ball over the goal line.
“Selfish decision,” he added. “Karma came back quick.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter expressed faith in Abdullah on Thursday.
“Didn’t have his best day, but he’s a guy that’s been really somebody we’ve trusted around here to handle himself the right way, to do things the right way, to protect the ball the right way,” said Cooter. “I think moving forward, we’ll gain that confidence level right back to where it’s always been.
“When you have a game that’s not quite living up to what you would like it to as a player, sometimes you have to just throw that thing away, fix the problem, and more forward. And I think he’ll do that. Ameer’s the right kind of guy, he works really hard. I don’t foresee any change.”