No. 39 was everywhere and back Wednesday, more fun than a box of badgers. On the first-unit punt team, sprinting like a toddler in a toy store. In the secondary, eyes wide, hands at the ready, swatting away an errant pass.

So when you tell Zac Diles later that Husain Abdullah hasn't played a down of NFL football in 17 months, the wheels inside the head start to turn. Then the jaw drops.

"No, he looks gooood," Diles, the new Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, says of Abdullah, the news Chiefs safety. "You wouldn't even know that, no. I had no idea. I had no idea. Because he's running around out there, making plays. Almost had an interception out here. And he's vocal. He knows (his stuff)."

For some guys, it's all about the destination; for others, it's the journey. At 25, Abdullah was a defensive back and special teams ace with the Minnesota Vikings, commanding $1.835 million on a one-year contract. He was living the American Dream, a man made rich playing a boys' game, a jackhammer in the prime of his professional career.

At 26, Husain Abdullah walked away.

Last June, Abdullah, who was raised Muslim along with his seven brothers and four sisters, announced that he would sit out the 2012 season in order to partake in the Hajj — a pilgrimage to Mecca. His brother Hamza, then a safety with the Arizona Cardinals, joined him on his spiritual quest, which began with a goodwill tour around the United States in which they visited 30 mosques in 30 days.

"It's different in the Middle East, but honestly, everything is structured around prayer," Abdullah says. "So about 4 or 5 a.m. you wake up, you go pray. You come back, you chill out, you do whatever you want to do. At noon, you have another prayer. At mid-day, you have another prayer. At sunset, you have another prayer. And at nighttime, you have another prayer.

"Oh, yeah, it was definitely worth it. If I could do it over again, I would. And especially knowing, at the end of it, the Chiefs would pick me up."

But that's the thing: You don't know. Nobody does. The NFL machine chugs relentlessly and ruthlessly on, with or without you.