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Connections: Ameer Abdullah's 'work hard, play hard' mentality has trickled down on his team

Ameer Abdullah is at the stage in his career where he refuses to let pressure shake him.

In his ninth NFL season, he doesn't take a practice, kickoff return or third-down situation for granted. He's enjoying every moment that he has with the privilege to play "a child's game" for a living.

"I'm just having fun," said Abdullah. "I think teams play their best when they're loose and that comes from the leadership taking ownership over that. Get your work done when it's time to work, but also make it enjoyable for guys. We spend so much time here staring at each other, staring at playbooks, staring at film, that sometimes we lose sight that we all have brilliant opportunity to do this."

Abdullah said he developed his gracious outlook on football from his time with the Minnesota Vikings. The former Nebraska Cornhusker spent his first three and a half seasons with the Detroit Lions before he was claimed off waivers by the Vikings in 2018.

Minnesota came with a bit of culture shock for him, but in the best way possible. He joined a young, rising roster that consisted of Pro Bowlers Kirk Cousins, Stefan Diggs, Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph on offense. Abdullah totaled three receiving touchdowns and nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards as a Viking, while also appearing in two playoff games.

"I learned a lot about teammates, camaraderie and being a little more unselfish," Abdullah said as he reflected on his time in Minnesota. "I played a lot of different roles there, did a lot for that organization and it was truly an enjoyable time honestly. It gave me a lot of insight moving forward on who I am now on what type of teammate I need to be to instill that same type of winning system."

Now two seasons into his tenure with the Las Vegas Raiders, the trifecta of veteran leadership, third-down pass catching and special teams playmaking has made him one of the more invaluable pieces of the roster. The "selflessness" of Abdullah has been visible to the coaching staff and the locker room.

"[O]ne of the first guys down there on kickoff, on special teams going down there," Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierece said. "Huge tackles, I don't know but he has 10+ tackles on special teams, which is a good year for a special teams player. But just his physicality, you look at him you wouldn't think nothing about that, right? One of the stronger players, he plays with that chip on his shoulder, he's very dynamic.

"And then in the passing game for us on third down, his ability to make plays. ... I just appreciate the selflessness. Here's an elite running back, a guy that can really change the game probably for most teams, but he has to take a step back because we have one of the best running backs [Josh Jacobs] in our room."

Jacobs is high on the atmosphere of the running backs room, which Abdullah described as a unit that will always "work hard, play hard" together. Watching Abdullah on a daily basis has provided even more motivation for Jacobs to give 110 percent.

"If you see the type of energy and the type of effort he puts in on special teams, I think he's our head special teams guy right now in terms of tackling and being in the right spots," Jacobs said. "Besides that, you see what he does when he comes in. The guy is 5-foot-8 but he's blocking 250-pound people like he's 6-foot-2. Obviously him being a vet, his ninth year in the league, his wisdom of the game I feel like is going to make him be able to play for many years to come."

As Abduallah prepares to face his former team Sunday, the Vikings boast a top-10 rush defense in the league. Yet no matter the obstacle or the opponent, emotions will remain the same for Abdullah and the rest of the Raiders backfield.

"What I love about this running back room is when we're up, we're the same. And when we're down, we're the same," Abdullah said. "We're going to bring a good attitude and we love picking each other up. We want to see each other succeed.

"Seeing JJ [Josh Jacobs] getting things going lately, seeing guys like Brandon [Bolden] kill it on special teams, Z [Zamir White] is finding his role as the backup running back right now and me just getting in where I fit in – it's something we really encourage amongst one another."

Other notable connections

  • Raiders safety Marcus Epps was drafted in the sixth round, 191st overall, of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He played eight games for them his rookie season.
  • Raiders running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu spent five seasons (2017-21) with the Vikings in the same role.
  • Raiders pass game coordinator Scott Turner served as the quarterbacks coach for the Vikings from 2014-16.
  • Vikings long snapper Andrew DePaola spent time with the Raiders in 2018.

The Silver and Black get in one last practice at Intermountain Health Performance Center before their Sunday matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

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