Husain Abdullah, who gave up football to take Muslim pilgrimage, is back in NFL with the Chiefs

05/23/2013 2:38 PM

05/29/2013 2:26 PM

Chiefs free safety Husain Abdullah backpedaled with the receiver, recognized the route, broke on the ball and deflected the pass thrown by rookie Tyler Bray.

Abdullah pounded his hands in frustration at not making the interception. After spending a year away from football while on a religious pilgrimage, Abdullah knows every play counts in his NFL comeback, so he had to be satisfied with merely breaking up the pass.

“To get back out here and to have a second chance, not a lot of people get one,” Abdullah said after one of the Chiefs’ offseason workout sessions this week. “So this is a blessing.”

Abdullah, a practicing Muslim, elected not to return to the Minnesota Vikings last season and instead took his wife, parents and two older brothers on a month-long spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia last October.

The family — including older brother Hamza Abdullah, who spent 2005-11 with the Arizona Cardinals — visited and prayed at the mosques in Mecca and Medina. And before that, when their teams were in training camp, the Abdullah brothers made a 30-city-in-30-day, cross-country road trip in a minivan during the 30 days of Ramadan in July and August.

They spoke and prayed at mosques and performed community service from coast-to-coast and in Canada, even while fasting during Ramadan, something he has done even during football seasons.

“It was a beautiful year, all over,” said Abdullah, 27. “We’d give talks to youth groups, and they’d bounce questions off us like, ‘What’s it like playing in the NFL? what’s Brett Favre like ?”

The biggest question, though, was why in the in the prime of his career, did Abdullah make the journey abroad as opposed to waiting until after his playing days were over?

“It was something that weighed heavy on me,” he said. “It’s something Muslims are required to do once in your lifetime, and we didn’t necessarily have to do it then. I see my parents getting a little older and sicker, and I was able to take them it was a dream for them, and it was a dream for me, and to experience that together was awesome.”

The family followed a pretty simple daily routine in the Saudi Arabia.

“Everything is structured around prayer,” he said. “At 4 or 5 a.m., you wake up and you go pray you chill, you do whatever you want to do and come back at noon, and you have another prayer. At midday, another prayer. At sunset you have another prayer, and at night time you have another prayer.”

Abdullah, a starter for the Vikings in 2010 and in nine games in 2011, hoped to catch on with an NFL team upon his return, but there were no takers. Part of the reason might have been he missed seven games in 2011 and finished the season on injured reserve because of a concussion.

“Regardless of how confident you are, the NFL is a business,” he said. “I was working out on my own when I got back from Saudi Arabia. I was trying to get on last year, but it didn’t happen. This year I got a chance.”

The chance occurred because Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, a scouting director at Green Bay, remembered Abdullah from the Packers’ two games each year against NFC North rival Minnesota.

Abdullah cracked the Vikings’ roster as an undrafted rookie from Washington State in 2008, led the team with 24 special teams tackles as a rookie, and by 2010, he started 15 games. Abdullah, 6 feet and 204 pounds, intercepted four passes in 2010-11 before he was sidelined.

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