After concussions, Abdullah has big decision

Husain Abdullah (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)

Husain Abdullah would love to play for the Vikings again next season, but after four concussions in two years, his future is cloudy even if his mind has cleared from the latest trauma. Abdullah talked about his decision ahead and whether the free agent will play football in 2012.

After four concussions in the last two years, safety Husain Abdullah's future is cloudy even if his mind is cleared.

As the Vikings' season ended and players prepared to exit Winter Park early last week, Abdullah had big decisions on the horizon. His season ended long before, on Nov. 29, after his second concussion of the season and fourth in two years.

"Football is a game where people get hurt. I've been able to play through a lot of injuries, but I guess a brain injury is a tough one to do because it messes up everything," Abdullah said. "That's something that I'd like to be able to find out more about and would like to get over. As long as they'll have me, I want to be here."

Abdullah was offered a one-year, $1.835 million contract last year as a restricted free agent. This year, he is scheduled to be unrestricted when free agency opens on March 13. But before the Vikings can finalize a deal with him, Abdullah needs to decide whether the benefits of playing football again outweigh the risks associated with anymore concussions.

"Unless I go to a doctor and he tells me otherwise – he says you have to shut it down – I definitely don't want that to happen. I definitely have to find out more about this stuff because it could be greater than me or it could be like, ‘Oh, you're alright.' So we'll see," Abdullah said.

"Me personally, I like to research stuff and I'd like to find out more because you see in other sports like hockey or you see former NFL players and you see what they're going through. So I'd like to learn more about this stuff, but I definitely don't have the game of football taken away from me at 26 years old."

The sad stories of NFL alumni affected physically – but especially mentally and emotionally – have come into greater awareness in recent years. For proof of the worst-case possibilities, Abdullah need look no further than a couple former Vikings.

The family of the late Wally Hilgenberg had his brain donated to the NFL's "brain bank" to study the impact of concussions on a player's brain. Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy has been researching that area for the last few years. Hilgenberg died on Sept. 23, 2008 after battling ALS.

Another former Viking, Brent Boyd, along with Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause, are involved in a lawsuit against the NFL seeking $5 million each for players who say they are suffering from concussion-related brain injuries.

Abdullah struggled for several weeks after his second concussion of the season, but early last week said all of the symptoms were gone.

"I had two last year as well. As of right now, I'm fine. If I was walking around and I was all jacked up, it might be a different story. But right now I feel good," he said. "I'm thankful for (the Vikings) handling the situation the way they did. Just looking forward to finding out more about this stuff and moving forward."

Abdullah said during the season that initially he was against the team placing him on injured reserve and ending his season after nine games played (he was inactive for two weeks in between concussions). Now, he understands why team officials ended his season and is thankful they made the decision for him.

But when it comes to his future, he is the only one that can decide if he should play again. The way he sounded last week, he still wants to play.

"They gave me a chance when nobody else would," said the former undrafted rookie who worked his way up the ranks to a starting position. "They kept me around for four years. If given the opportunity, I'd love to be back here. I'm a big Vikings fan now.

"I thought I started out the season real good and then going toward the bye week, I might have had a little slump and I wanted to get back to where I started off and then I got a concussion and put on IR. It's definitely good knowing that I can play at a high level and be successful doing this. This offseason, that's what I'm going to work on, just consistency."

Ironically, the Vikings broached the subject of a contract extension before his 2011 concussions occurred, but he didn't want those talks to disturb his efforts to improve his skills.

"I didn't want it to mess with my focus, so I was like, ‘Let's just talk later on.' I'm not a person who can handle a bunch of different things at the same time," he said. "I've got my family. I've got football. That's enough. Family, football, businessman, spokesman – that's too many hats to wear for me."

The biggest long-term decision for him will revolve around the risks of putting on a football "hat" again.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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