Now a veteran, Bell can help rookies such as Abdullah
As they prepared for the season, the two running backs were up late quizzing each other on the playbook.
''He asked me a play, and simultaneously his phone went off. He answers his phone and said, `Listen, let me call you back, I'm studying with Joique,''' Bell said. ''He hangs up the phone, he gave me the play again and he looked over there. I was sleeping on the playbook.''
Adjusting to the NFL isn't easy, even for players with undeniable talent. Now a 28-year-old veteran coming off a couple of productive seasons, Bell is the top returning running back for the Detroit Lions.
But he also sees plenty of potential in Ameer Abdullah, the running back the Lions took in the second round of this year's draft.
His advice for Abdullah is simple.
''Go to sleep on the playbook,'' Bell said.
The Lions won 11 games last season and made the playoffs as a wild card, but the running game has needed improving for a while now. Reggie Bush was cut this offseason, removing some of Bell's competition from the backfield. Bell got the most carries on the team anyway last season, rushing for a career-high 860 yards on 223 attempts.
Bell has now established himself after bouncing around the league a bit initially. He never played a game for Buffalo, and after stints with Philadelphia, Indianapolis and New Orleans, he caught on with the Lions and began contributing in Detroit in 2012.
''By the time I got here, I had learned four different offenses,'' Bell said.
With Bush gone, the Lions drafted Abdullah, who had a stellar college career at Nebraska. He's made a strong impression already during the team's offseason work, and he's trying to learn from more experienced players such as Bell.
''He's a seasoned vet, he knows everything about the playbook,'' Abdullah said Wednesday at minicamp. ''He knows the little things that could make a special running back, so I'm soaking in everything that he's teaching me.''
Those moves have been viewed as an attempt to provide better pass protection for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but an upgraded offensive line can help the running game too.
''We definitely just loaded up our offensive line,'' Bell said. ''It definitely is going to give us some extra holes to run through. At the same time, we've got to do our part and make sure we read it all right and hit the right holes.''
There's a mental aspect to being a productive runner, as well as a physical one. It's a lot for a rookie to handle, but the Lions are hopeful Abdullah will be ready to help Bell in the backfield this season.
''I think the older guys that have been here, the veterans understand the importance of the young guys coming in, fitting in quickly and being in position to help us, particularly when they have talent,'' coach Jim Caldwell said.
''You'll see (defensive back) Rashean Mathis, for example, with (Darius) Slay ... working on techniques, even behind the huddle. So you're seeing the same thing, obviously, with Joique and Ameer.''
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