The Vikings claimed running back Ameer Abdullah off waivers from the Detroit Lions on Wednesday.
Abdullah, 25, was the Lions’ leading rusher two of the past three seasons. As a rookie, he led the NFL with 37 kickoff returns for 1,007 yards for a 29.1 yard average.
To make room on their roster, the Vikings waived tailback Roc Thomas. The rookie from Jacksonville State was dealing with a hamstring injury in the past month.
A second-round pick (54th overall) out of Nebraska in 2015, Abdullah fell behind rookie Kerryon Johnson and veterans Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount on the Detroit depth chart and was waived Tuesday. He played in only three games, rushing once for a yard and catching two passes.
Abdullah, 5-9 and 200 pounds, led the Lions in rushing as a rookie with 597 yards but was sidelined for 14 games in 2016 because of foot surgery. He had 552 rushing yards last season.
A native of Homewood, Ala., Abdullah rushed for more than 1,600 yards in both his junior and senior seasons at Nebraska. Near the end of his senior season, he won the Senior CLASS award for top Division I player based on athletic, community and classroom achievements.
His base salary this season is $875,000.
Detroit re-signed former Eagan running back Zach Zenner on Tuesday.
The Vikings are on a bye week after beating Detroit 24-9 at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, a game where they unleashed a successful 1-2 rushing punch of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray.
Murray leads the team with 417 yards on 92 carries (4.5 average) with five touchdowns. Cook, sidelined most of the season because of a hamstring injury, has 187 yards on 46 carries, but 70 of that came on one run Sunday.
Mike Boone and Thomas have also seen action at tailback.
Abdullah, who ran for 160 yards on 40 carries in four games against the Vikings, could be used on kickoff returns. Rookie defensive back Mike Hughes is out for the season after knee surgery, and rookie cornerback Holton Hill is being used more in defensive sets.
In nine games, the Vikings have returned only 12 kickoffs, including four by Hughes and three by Hill.
Hunter named player of the week
Danielle Hunter was named NFC Player of the Week after getting a career-high 3½ of the Vikings’ franchise-record 10 sacks of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
The Vikings’ defensive end added his second career touchdown on a 32-yard fumble recovery.
Hunter, 24, leads the NFL with 11½ sacks this season.