We may never know exactly why Ameer Abdullah was benched last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but we do know that the player and his coach have two very different accounts of what happened.
On Monday, Jim Caldwell insisted that the benching was due to a neck injury that caused him to miss the previous week against the Ravens.
“It’s health issues,” Caldwell said on what kept him out of the game against the Buccaneers.
But Abdullah spoke to reporters on Tuesday and told an entirely different story.
Ameer Abdullah says he could have played Sunday. “Yea, I’m ready to go.” Also says whatever the coaches decide on game days, he’s “for it.”— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) December 12, 2017
Of course, a player may feel ready to go, while the coaching staff may feel otherwise. To his credit, Abdullah deferred decisions to the coaching staff without putting up a fuss publicly.
However, there’s something strange about this story. This doesn’t really seem like simply a differing of opinion on a medical status. Abdullah said he was ready to go, and the Lions coaches said he was not. According to MLive’s Nate Atkins, Abdullah said of the coaching staff, “Maybe they know something I don’t.”
It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a coaching staff to hold out medical information from the player involved. Maybe the Lions were just being precautionary and held out Abdullah when he could have played. Maybe Caldwell is just refusing to call it a talent-based benching, even if that’s exactly what it was.
What is clear, however, is that we should know a lot more about the Lions’ intentions this week. According to Abdullah, he is 100 percent now:
Ameer Abdullah said he felt he could have played on Sunday and that he's 100 percent healthy now. Not playing was a coach's decision. "Maybe they know something I don't."— Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) December 12, 2017
So if the Lions’ decision was based on health last week, there would be no reason to hold out Abdullah this week against the Chicago Bears.
To his credit, Abdullah also openly talked about his struggles this year, and he refused to make any excuses:
Abdullah also said to pin the run game struggles on him, that he’s not happy with his production so far— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 12, 2017
While Abdullah is certainly struggling in his third year—averaging just 3.4 yards per carry—no other running back has been able to see much success this year. Theo Riddick is averaging 3.3 YPC, Dwayne Washington is averaging 2.2. The only running back outgaining Abdullah on a yards per carry basis is rookie Tion Green, who is averaging 4.1 YPC, but has only carried the ball 16 times and half of his 66 yards came on one carry.
On Monday, Caldwell seemed hopeful that Abdullah will get back into the lineup this week. “Hopefully he’ll be all right this week,” Caldwell said. We’ll see what the Lions truly think of him this Saturday.