Even before Ameer Abdullah arrived to Las Vegas, you wouldn't have had to search far to find an admirer of his game.
The running back has been a productive player in the NFL for eight seasons spanning over four teams. He was the lead back for the Lions after being drafted out of Nebraska, with 1,671 total scrimmage yards and nine total touchdowns in the 22 games he started in Detroit. He went onto have stints with the Minnesota Vikings and the Carolina Panthers – both of which ultimately put him on the radar of the Raiders.
He got to know running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu – who was brought on the Raiders staff this offseason – through four seasons at Minnesota.
"It helps get more comfortable in the system, knowing you have a coach you've played for before," said Abdullah. "This is a completely different system I've [ever] played in. So having a coach that's kind of going through those same growing pains, and me who's also learning the playbook for the first time, is definitely helping."
When Abdullah was traded to the Panthers last season, he caught the eye of the team's pass game specialist Matt Lombardi, brother of the Raiders current offensive coordinator.
"He told me, 'This guy's a grade A person and player,'" said offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi. "Ever since we got [Abdullah] in the spring, he's learned the offense, learned what to do in a sub back role, an early down back role. And then obviously played with Coach [Tom] McMahon on special teams ... He's worked hard every day in practice."
"He's studied the playbook, make sure he's on it. He's played a lot on third down and is producing for us. Again, not everything can translate in Week 1. It takes time to kind of define your role, and he's done a phenomenal job with that. I really appreciate the hard work he's put in, and I appreciate the person he is."
What's made Abdullah valuable to the Raiders is what he's been known for his whole career – his impact in the run game, passing game and special teams. He's not only carved a role for himself as a rotational running back, but as the primary kick returner. He's averaging 20 yards per kick return this season, with a career average of 25 yards per kick return. Also can't forget to mention his six total tackles on special teams.
"I take pride in being a good football player before anything really," said Abdullah. "Just going out there and whatever I'm asked to do, doing it at the highest level.
"If you want to play a long time, then you'll probably have to find yourself on special teams at some point in your career. I take pride in it. I feel like it's a good opportunity to uplift the team. Anytime you can go out there on a one-play series, which is what special teams is, you have an opportunity to change the momentum. That's kind of where I can build my energy and set the tone for the day."
As for Head Coach Josh McDaniels, he's liked the running back's skill-set"since evaluating him ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft. The former Cornhusker had 5,278 total scrimmage yards and 46 touchdowns in his collegiate career.
So far, Abdullah has been as advertised since suiting up in the Silver and Black.
"He's always had the ability to compete and factor in in the kicking game," said McDaniels. "The backs that don't carry the ball 20, 25 times, they have to have a role on gameday that's bigger than just waiting until somebody gets hurt. Ameer certainly has started to carve a role out for himself on third down, definitely in the kicking game. He's one of our leading tacklers. One of the guys that's down there on the punt team, on the kickoff cover team.
"Unselfish guy. Great attitude. Smart, tough, durable. He's been out there every single day, takes great care of his body and he's talented."
Head inside Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as the Raiders prepare for their Week 11 road game against the Denver Broncos.