EAGAN, Minn. — Ameer Abdullah chipped away at emptying the two large boxes situated in front of his locker Monday afternoon, unpacking items from his old life while getting set up in his new one.
In between practice and meetings, several players stopped by to strike up a conversation with their newest teammate, from backup quarterback Trevor Siemian to defensive end Stephen Weatherly, both located within an earshot of the running back’s locker.
Abdullah was cut by the Detroit Lions last Tuesday, the team that spent a second-round pick to draft him in 2015. The following afternoon, the running back found out he was heading to a division rival after being claimed by the Minnesota Vikings.
While the rest of his new teammates found time to unwind during the Vikings’ Week 10 bye, Abdullah was in the process of transitioning to his new life. The whirlwind finally started to subside at the start of the week as Minnesota began preparations for its Sunday night showdown in Chicago.
“I try not to get surprised by anything because that’s what life is about,” Abdullah said. “Life is a process. It’s always going to change. You can wake up one day and be healthy, wake up the next day and not be healthy. I think that’s what I really love about life — the unpredictability about it. It really challenges you. Challenges you to bring the same attitude each and every day, to live with integrity and never be divided. That’s what this process has taught me and I love it. It’s like a new beginning for me and I’m excited.”
Abdullah was Detroit’s leading rusher in 2017 but saw his role diminish considerably this season after the Lions drafted Kerryon Johnson and signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency. The 25-year-old had one carry for 1 yard and two receptions for 18 yards this season. He also had a critical fumble against Seattle in Week 8 on a kick return and lost that job to rookie Brandon Powell when the Lions played the Vikings in Week 9.
“Detroit is the team that drafted me, team that I’ll always hold in my heart,” he said. “I don’t like to talk in the past too much. The situation there is what it is. All I can do is handle what I have here now.”
Viewing Minnesota as a place to jump-start the next phase of his career, Abdullah says he entered the week with no expectations about what his role will be among a crowded stable of running backs but noted the way his situation worked out was everything he hoped for.
“I’m entering a backfield with a lot of talent with Dalvin (Cook), Latavius (Murray) and all the guys who have been here,” Abdullah said. “Just to come in today and to see these guys welcome me the way they have has been amazing for me and it does a lot for my confidence, does a lot for my focus. I’m ready to work. Anything the Vikings ask me to do, I’m willing to do, just because I’m so appreciative of the opportunity.”
While Abdullah also presents Minnesota with a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, with 57 receptions for 420 yards and three touchdowns over his four years in the NFL, one area he does aim to contribute is on kickoff returns. As a rookie, Abdullah led the league in return yardage on 37 kickoff returns and has a career average of 27.8 yards per return. Minnesota’s depth on its return teams was tested regularly its first nine games after rookie Mike Hughes suffered a torn ACL and his replacement, Holton Hill, was called upon to play more snaps on defense due to injuries in the secondary.
“I sure hope,” Abdullah said of an opportunity as a kick returner. “I’m sure we’ll get more into the nooks and crannies of things as the week progresses. Right now I’m just trying to figure out how I can get into the gate, what’s the code to the door so I won’t be locked out in the cold.”