Ameer Abdullah spent two months this offseason living with his brother in California and training with a host of current and future NFL stars, including Odell Beckham Jr., Leonard Fournette and Saquon Barkley.
That Abdullah spent the winter working out with some of his most accomplished peers is significant, though perhaps not as significant as the fact that he was able to work out at all.
For the first time in his NFL career, Abdullah has had a full offseason to train, free from rehabilitative activities.
In 2016, after a promising rookie season, Abdullah underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder that kept him out of spring workouts. Last year, he was limited in the offseason while recovering from Lisfranc (foot) surgery.
"It's been good for me," Abdullah said Saturday during a fundraiser for victims of the Flint water crisis. "Of course the offseason's still young right now, so I'm still progressing, but it's been good just to be able to run and do everything I do all year. So it's been good."
Coming off a disappointing 2017 season in which he ran for 552 yards and lost his starting job late in the year, Abdullah spent most of February and March working out with Los Angeles-based trainer Jamal Liggin, a "movement specialist" he stumbled upon through peer referral.
Abdullah said his workouts this offseason, which focused more on functional training than heavy weight lifting, weren't dramatically different from some of the things he has done in previous years. The biggest change, he said, was he was able to throw himself fully into his work.
"This is the first offseason I've actually had to actually train," Abdullah said. "My previous two offseasons I was recovering from surgery so it's more of a rehabilitation process as opposed to actually working to get stronger and faster. So that was different."
Abdullah was able to talk shop with Fournette, Barkley and others about life as an NFL player – former Lions defensive back Johnson Bademosi was among others at the workouts – and he said the training sessions have him ready for what he hopes will be his breakout year.
"Definitely ready for a big year," Abdullah said. "My body feels as good as it's felt since I've been here, so I think that's the most important thing. I've had an unfortunate streak of two injuries in a row. Coming back from those have been tough in their own respect, but I'm glad I'm all the way back."
Healthy as he is, Abdullah's role with the Lions in 2018 remains uncertain for now.
The Lions signed LeGarrette Blount to a one-year free-agent deal this offseason, and Blount is expected to play a key role on offense. They return all four of their other running backs from last year, including Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner. And they're expected to add a running back in next week's draft.
New Lions coach Matt Patricia has talked openly about his desire to use multiple running backs, and Abdullah said he welcomes the competition of having not just Blount on the roster but perhaps a rookie as well.
"I'm glad that it's a lot of competition in the room right now," Abdullah said. "It's going to be good for me. It's going to be good for everybody in our room, it's going to be good for our team, I think. And I'm expecting nothing but good things from myself."
Asked what sort of role he expects to have with the Lions this fall, Abdullah said "just be an impact" for a running game that ranked last in the NFL last season.
"If you look at the history of Detroit, we haven't really had a clear-cut starter for the past couple years," Abdullah said. "We've always shared time because we all do an assortment of things that are a lot different and adding Blount to that mix, it's a lot different. He's a bigger guy, he's probably going to be a pounder. And you've got Dwayne (Washington), big guy as well. Me and Theo (Riddick), we can catch out of the backfield. So I think it's a great dynamic right now and I think it's a great competition situation."