Updated: August 7th, 2010 7:36pm
Vikings hope nutrition, attention will keep Abdullah strong during fast

Vikings hope nutrition, attention will keep Abdullah strong during fast

by Tom Pelissero
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MANKATO, Minn. -- It was around the time of last season's opener at Cleveland that coaches first noticed the change.

"We said, 'What's wrong with Husain Abdullah?'" Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress recalled on Saturday. "'It doesn't seem like he has enough spunk.'"

The next two weeks, Abdullah was inactive. He returned to the lineup Oct. 5 at Green Bay and played better and better as the season went on -- recording a career-high four special-teams tackles in the regular-season finale and five more in the playoffs.

The difference from that first month?

"I had a serious inflammation in my side joint and then it got up into my back and my hip," Abdullah said. "I couldn't bend, I couldn't run and I really wasn't the same player, to be quite honest."

That wasn't the only challenge Abdullah was facing, though.

Abdullah, a Muslim, had been fasting for Ramadan.

This wasn't anything new -- Abdullah has fasted since he was 7 years old, abstaining from all food and liquids from dawn to sunset for 29 or 30 days each year to celebrate the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

"It's something I enjoy doing, something I look forward to doing," Abdullah said. "I'm excited about it, and I'm actually excited that more people are aware. I used to kind of keep it to myself, but now, I'm actually excited that Islam is getting some positive attention."

And this time, when Ramadan begins again on Wednesday, Abdullah and the Vikings will have a plan to keep their No. 4 safety and core special teamer at full strength.

Abdullah, 25, already has met with a nutritionist, who constructed a meal plan to make sure he gets enough calories to maintain weight and muscle.

"I think we have our arms around it now and know when he is going to wake up and when he is going to eat and what we can pack on him before the sun comes up," Childress said. "Last year, he was shouldering it all by himself."

The Vikings hope that extra attention will help Abdullah carry over his strong camp through the end of Ramadan on Sept. 9 -- the day of the regular-season opener at New Orleans.

Working with the second-team defense, Abdullah recorded interceptions in three consecutive practices last weekend. He flashed again on Saturday, sticking Albert Young on a run during a "live" tackling period and swatting a sure touchdown pass out of rookie tight end Mickey Shuler's hands.

"Everybody's been playing well," Abdullah said. "I've just been kind of a lucky guy."

His new quest -- besides keeping a strong hold on his roster spot -- is to convince other members of the Vikings organization to join him in his holy ritual.

So far, Abdullah says, he's convinced head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman to fast for a day or two, and he still hopes to get some coaches on board -- Childress included.

The coach's response?

"I think I'll pass," Childress said.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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