- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He has been praised by teammates all spring long and even into the first few practices of training camp as someone who could end up with a larger role on the Detroit Lions, but Theo Riddick is having none of it.
The running back, while not exactly ignoring the increased attention his game is receiving, doesn’t appear to actually be buying into it at all.
“I haven’t really proven anything,” Riddick said. “Those are just words.”
They are, but when those words are coming from defensive players, established players on offense, and even from one of the men who will be making a decision on how much Riddick will play, there is some validity to it.
Add in what he has done on the field so far -- appearing explosive during his repetitions and trusting his first cut and going with it -- and the attention on him begins to make some sense.
As a rookie, Riddick was often anxious about what was going to happen. He was, in effect, still learning everything as he received some repetitions -- nine carries for 25 yards -- but not enough to make a real difference. Instead, he ended up as a valuable special teams contributor as both a blocker on kick returns and someone who could make plays on coverage units.
“Before coming here, there are a few guys that jump out at you on film,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I was watching special teams and every single time on the unit he’s on, he shows up.
“He’s got intensity, he hustles, he’s got desire, toughness, all of those things, and he’s a very, very capable runner. Also, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. [Riddick is] very tough to handle in one-on-one situations, so he had a great spring and we anticipate this fall he’s going to perform equally as well, so we’re excited about that.”
That was Riddick’s goal from the outset. He wanted to be more than a special teams contributor, though, so when the new coaching staff came in there was a chance for an offensive role. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi likes using multiple backs out of the backfield and places an emphasis on running backs who can run precise routes and catch the ball.
In Riddick, they have someone who can slide in behind Reggie Bush to do that. Riddick won’t supplant Bush or Joique Bell in Detroit’s offensive scheme this season, but he should be able to find himself a role.
“Coming out of the backfield I’m very versatile and I think I put pressure on defenses, but at the same time I haven’t proven anything yet,” Riddick said. “I’m just excited to come out this year and hopefully play well.”
So far, he has.