The Detroit Lions gave Mikel Leshoure a robust workload in the preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills. Nervous Lions fans remembered back to 2003 when running back James Stewart was lost for the season with a shoulder injury suffered in the final preseason game, also against the Bills, but Leshoure emerged no worse for the wear.
Whether there was really any risk in running Leshoure as hard as they did is debatable, football players have to play after all. Even if so, the Lions had no choice for a couple reasons.
Not only is Mikel Leshoure coming off a lost rookie season due to injury, but he wasn’t able to play in the first two preseason games of 2012 either. The final preseason game represented a “now or never” situation heading into the regular season. Leshoure got his feet wet with six touches against the Raiders before handling the ball 16 times (15 carries, one reception) against the Bills.
Ideally, Leshoure would have been perfectly healthy entering camp and able to make it through without suffering a setback like the hamstring injury caused by compensating for his repaired Achilles. He could have ramped up his participation level through the first three games and backed off in the fourth like every other important player.
Unfortunately, Leshoure and the Lions aren’t dealing with an ideal situation. Even without the hamstring injury, the Lions would have been right to give Leshoure a heavier than normal workload in the fourth preseason game because of his two game suspension.
The suspension will keep Leshoure out of a lot more than just the games against the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers. He’ll also be banned from practicing with his teammates. He can work out and attend team meetings but Leshoure won’t get any live reps until the Lions return from San Francisco.
That means the Lions’ could afford to let Leshoure get a little nicked and bruised. He’ll have plenty of time to get ride of whatever soreness he woke up with last Friday morning. Giving Leshoure a heavy workload against the Bills also minimizes the gap between game action necessitated by the suspension.
With Jahvid Best out for at least six weeks while on the PUP list and his status uncertain beyond that, the Lions can’t afford to bring Mikel Leshoure up to speed gradually. Kevin Smith will be asked to carry a heavy load in Leshoure’s absence and the Lions need Leshoure ready to play an important role upon being reinstated from suspension.
The best way to help make that happen was to give Leshoure the ball early and often last week against the Bills. Fortunately, nothing happened to give any reason to question what the Lions did. The right decision doesn’t always result in the desired outcome but the Lions look good so far. The only thing left is for Mikel Leshoure to return with a solid game against the Tennessee Titans on September 23.