EAGAN, Minn. – When presented the opportunity, returning to Minnesota was an easy decision for Ameer Abdullah.
Abdullah told Twin Cities media members that he had a couple of offers from other teams upon the start of free agency, but the running called returning to Minnesota an easy decision.
The Vikings announced Monday that they re-signed the running back, whom they initially added off of waivers in November when he was released by the NFC North-rival Lions.
Abdullah, an Alabama native who played collegiately at Nebraska, told Twin Cities media members a couple of other teams contacted him but that “Minnesota always felt like home” despite his short time thus far in Purple.
“Minnesota is really close to Nebraska, geographically, and emotionally it’s really similar to Nebraska with the love that we have for each other as teammates – and that trickles on down from the administration and coaches, as well,” Abdullah said via conference call. “Anytime you have that kind of dynamic where the coaches and players are on the same page, and the fan base [just supports] you through thick and thin and are filling out the stadium, being super loud, making our home games a lot easier for us – what other place would you want to play?”
Abdullah played seven games for the Vikings in 2018 but played primarily on special teams; he had no carries on offense and just one reception for 10 yards.
With that in mind, he’s even more grateful for the opportunity to contribute over an entire season.
“Thank you to Rick Spielman and the entire administration here … for believing in me,” Abdullah said. “I know last year I wasn’t here for a very long time, didn’t have enough time to really show who I was as a person, as a player, really, but just loving what they saw on film and trusting in that and trusting in my agent and myself with everything that we brought to the table, it was important to me to come to an agreement with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I didn’t really want to be anywhere else,” he added.
When asked about Minnesota’s “sales pitch,” Abdullah emphasized that the team appreciates him for much more than his on-field skill set. He explained that the Vikings first praised his character – which spoke volumes to the running back.
“They were very complimentary of my personality and who I am as a person,” Abdullah said. “That meant a lot. It showed me it is much deeper than being a talented team.
“It’s [the] teams that build that camaraderie and galvanize every year to win those big games that really matter. It takes good people to do that,” he continued. “It takes humble people to do that, so I think we’ve built that nucleus of humble people, teammates and coaches alike, and I’m glad that they consider me someone who could fit that mold. That was the first selling point [for me].”
He went on to emphasize the importance of adding depth to Minnesota’s backfield.
The Vikings are returning Dalvin Cook, who returned last season from a torn ACL suffered in 2017 but missed six games with a lingering hamstring injury. Latavius Murray, however, who led the Vikings in carries with 140, signed in free agency with the Saints after two seasons in Minnesota.
“You need that depth and having someone who can be complementary to Dalvin. Dalvin is really fast,” Abdullah said. “He does a lot of things in the game that a lot of people can’t do, but I consider myself a very explosive and unique player. Being a complementary runner alongside him will definitely build a great backfield.”
Abdullah said he’s “here to compete” and hopes to have a larger role on the offense this season, but he simultaneously embraces special teams. For the Vikings in 2018, he returned 10 kickoffs for a total of 258 yards (average of 25.8) with a long of 33.
View photos of Vikings RB Ameer Abdullah who re-signed with the team.
The 25-year-old said he “takes great pride” in that phase of the game, which will now be under the direction of new Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf.
“I want to be one of the best in the league at returning the football,” Abdullah said. “I’ve done so before in my career, and I want to continue that trend to help out the team.”
As a rookie, Abdullah led the NFL in kickoff returns (37) and kickoff return yards (1,077) and ranked second with a kickoff return average of 29.1 yards.
After joining the Vikings midseason, Abdullah will now be able to go through OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason in Minnesota, and he’s looking forward to more fully showcasing his versatility.
Abdullah understands the value of “the more you can do,” and he believes the Vikings have built a roster that demonstrates just that. He named a number of teammates, including Cook and receiver duo Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who allow Minnesota’s offense to be multifaceted.
“I feel like I can catch the ball out of the backfield really well and can also run the ball really well … obviously I’m a running back, and that’s what I was drafted to do,” Abdullah said. “I feel like this team is a very competitive team, and everyone takes their job really seriously no matter if you’re playing defense, offense or special teams.
“We understand that that’s your moment to put it on film and show your teammates you care about them and show your coaches you’re prepared and you’ve been studying your game plan every week,” he added. “Execution is the main thing that a lot of guys are going out there with the mindset to do. Just following up with that same energy is important to me.”