From the Archive: Exclusive Interview with former NFL player Hamzah Abdullah

May 1, 2015

Hamza Muhammad Abdullah, a former NFL safety from 2005-2011, spoke to The Daily Sports Herald about his professional football career. After being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he also played with the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, and Arizona Cardinals. He is the older brother of Husain Abdullah, an NFL safety with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Abdullah spoke with The DSH's Joe Hammond at the Doha Goals Conference in Qatar, home of the 2022 FIFA World Cup:

Q: You played your entire career in a 16-game season. Yet, a frequently discussed topic is a switch to an NFL 18-game season. What are your thoughts on this?

A: It just fires me up and gets me angry in a way that is difficult to explain. We hear so much from the league and people around football about safety being number one, the most important thing. How can they then turn around and talk about 18-game seasons? They try to say that players already play 20 games with pre-season. That's not true if you really look at the starts and the snaps some people only play 14-15 games. Late in the season after clinching the playoffs a lot of teams rest players. One of the important aspects is of course keeping players fresh. Imagine a scenario where its January 15th, the last regular season of the year and its a snowy Chiefs-Broncos game in Denver and both the QBs are out?  We have quarterbacks that are older and older and the NFL has made rules to protect them sure, but the NFL needs to do more than just write more rules.  It needs to take responsibility for medical care and rehabilitation of players after their careers are over.

Q: Right.  You have made a name for yourself on some of these issues and being a real advocate for a need for more safety in the NFL.

A: This is important. If we don't act now there will be more deaths and we're losing brothers, husbands, fathers of children, and of course, teammates. It’s a scary world if we don't take this seriously. The NFL is the #1 game in the U.S., and the league has spent a lot of money on the International Series in London and growing the game in new markets. All that money will be wasted if we can't make the game safe. You think people in the UK will start letting their kids play American football if its less safe than rugby? There is also let me point out a lot of money in star players when Aaron Rodger breaks his collarbone and we have concussions around the league, that sends a message. If we are going to be good advocates for the American game we have to look at this seriously.

Q: You mention the international series and we're speaking in Doha, where and how do you see the NFL growing overseas?

A: Well beyond the London series and recruiting in Africa, I would like to personally be involved in growing the game here in the Middle East. Wherever I go, I get a positive response as an American in this region, and as a Muslim.  I'd be interested in bringing out some NFL players, maybe some celebrity friends to do celebrity basketball.  It’s an untapped and rich market. Also, kids watch American movies and are increasingly interested in learning the game as well.

Q: As one of maybe two dozen or so Muslims to play in the NFL. Would you like to say something about that experience

A: I never felt discriminated because of my religion, that is one of the great things about the NFL. In the NFL it doesn't matter what you are and what color, as long as you get the job done. I showed them who I was and as a workhorse, people asked me questions. I was a born a Muslim, as was my brother Hussain Abdullah (who is currently a satefy with the Kansas City Chiefs).

Q: You have been out of the NFL for a couple years, was it difficult from an athletic perspective to make the transition from a professional athlete to just an athlete?

A: Well as an active NFL player you have a ridiculous regime of working out sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. When you are looking to leave the NFL, one of the first things you do is get a full health assessment with trainers and others professionals. Based on your situation they come up with a new regime. A mix of cardio and weights sure, but nothing like what active players go through.

Interview by Joe Hammond
Contributing Writer for 

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