The Minnesota Vikings claimed running back Ameer Abdullah off waivers on Wednesday.
The Detroit Lions waived Abdullah, the team’s leading rusher last season and former second-round pick, on Tuesday.
With Dalvin Cook (hamstring) getting back to full health, Abdullah provides depth in Minnesota’s backfield to go with Latavius Murray and Mike Boone. Abdullah also could contribute on special teams. He led the NFL in return yardage as a rookie after returning 37 kicks. In three seasons since then, his presence on kickoff returns has decreased considerably — he has returned just 12 kicks dating back to 2016.
With Mike Hughes out for the season with an ACL injury, the Vikings have looked to rookie Holton Hill to fill a role as a kick returner. With Hill’s snap count on defense increasing considerably over the past few weeks while Xavier Rhodes recovered from a foot injury, his presence on the kickoff return unit decreased. Minnesota may choose to give Abdullah a role in the return game given his prior experience.
To make room on the roster, the Vikings waived running back Roc Thomas.
Thomas, who injured a hamstring against the New Orleans Saints and was sidelined for Minnesota’s win over Detroit in Week 9, was not waived with an injury designation. A source said the Vikings have interest in bringing him back on the practice squad if he goes unclaimed on waivers.
The former Jacksonville State product joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in May and made the 53-man roster at the beginning of September. Thomas appeared in five games this season, rushing eight times for 30 yards and catching two passes for 21 yards.
Abdullah’s role in Detroit had diminished greatly this season after the signing of LeGarrette Blount and the draft selection of Kerryon Johnson in the second round. With Blount, Johnson and veteran Theo Riddick on the roster, Abdullah was active for only three games this season — two of which came when Riddick was recovering from a knee injury.
The 25-year-old had one carry for 1 yard this season and two receptions for 18 yards. He also had a critical fumble against Seattle in Week 8 on a kick return and lost that job to Brandon Powell against Minnesota last week.
Taken with the No. 54 pick in the 2015 draft, Abdullah appeared in 35 games with the Lions, rushing 327 times for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns along with catching 57 passes for 420 yards. His best overall season came as a rookie, when he had 168 touches for 780 total scrimmage yards and had a career-high 597 rushing yards.
Minnesota, which has a bye this week, plays at Detroit on Dec. 23.
ESPN’s Michael Rothstein and Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.