EAGAN, Minn. – Ameer Abdullah sat in front of his locker in Minnesota on Monday and sorted through boxes that arrived along with the running back from Detroit.
His locker situated next to Riley Reiff, who was his teammate with the Lions, Abdullah was trying to situate himself in his new environment. Fresh off a practice with the Vikings, Abdullah was happy for a fresh start after four seasons in Detroit.
“Life is amazingly unpredictable,” Abdullah said Monday. “Excited to be here, man. It’s a great team, great culture, great atmosphere to be joining. Ironically, it’s in the same division. Everything happens for a reason, so I’m really excited to be here in Minnesota.”
Abdullah, a former second-round draft pick by the Lions out of Nebraska, had played in just three games this season. The former starter for Detroit when he was healthy, Abdullah had only one carry this season with the Lions drafting Kerryon Johnson and signing LeGarrette Blount in the offseason.
The Lions waived Abdullah after they lost 24-9 in Minnesota on Nov. 4. The Vikings claimed Abdullah, adding him to a backfield that now has a healthy Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray.
“I’m entering a backfield with a lot of talent; Dalvin, we have Latavius and all the guys who’ve been here,” Abdullah said. “Just come in today and see these guys welcome me the way they have has been amazing for me. It does a lot for my confidence. It 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.”
Abdullah, 25, had averaged 3.8 yards per carry his first three seasons in Detroit, seeing an average of 10.2 carries a game. He was also a full-time kickoff returner as a rookie and has averaged 27.8 yards per return.
Given a new opportunity with Minnesota, Abdullah wasn’t dwelling on the sour end with the Lions.
“Detroit is the team that drafted me; the team that I was holding in my heart,” he said. “I really don’t like to talk about the past too much. The situation there is what it is. All I can do is handle what I have here now. I would rather just not speak about what they’re going through or what’s going on there.”
Abdullah had prior acquaintances waiting for him in the Vikings’ locker room. Besides playing with Rieff, Abdullah had trained in California in the offseason with Minnesota linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks.
“I think that’s what I really love about life; the unpredictability about it,” Abdullah said. “It really challenges you. It 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. I love it. It’s like a new beginning for me.”
With Cook missing five games this season, the Vikings are 28th in the league in rushing at 91.7 yards per game. But Minnesota has shown signs of improvement at an important time.
Three of the next six games are on the road, outside as the weather turns colder and coach Mike Zimmer wants to be able to run the ball.
“We just have to continue to be effective running the football,” Zimmer said last week. “I do think with some of these games as it starts to get colder, it is going to be more of a factor. I think we are getting better at a lot of the areas in the running game. We have to continue searching for more ways to pound the ball.”
Cook returned in Minnesota’s last game against Detroit, ripping off a 70-yard run in the process. It was the longest run of Cook’s injury-shortened career and the longest run for the Vikings this year. Cook and backup Latavius Murray combined for 120 yards rushing against the Lions.
The Vikings have averaged 124 rushing yards over the past four games after averaging 65.8 per game – the second-lowest mark in the league – through the first five weeks.
Abdullah’s unsure of his role yet and is hoping he can contribute on special teams for Minnesota, too.
“I’m coming in with no expectations,” Abdullah said. “You’ve got to come in and you got to live in whatever day you’re in.”
In the meantime, he’s focused on unpacking and learning the procedures of his new home.
“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,” he said.
Brian can be found on Twitter at @MNBrianHall. See all of the Vikings’ coverage at footballmaven.io/Vikings