EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson is loved in his home state of Texas. His hometown of Palestine — just under two hours outside of Dallas — throws a yearly celebration in Peterson’s honor, Adrian Peterson Day.
He won’t get the same appreciation Sunday.
Peterson will still be cheered Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings travel to play the Dallas Cowboys, but Peterson’s presence isn’t enough for the locals to turn against Dallas. They’re will be cheering for Peterson and against Minnesota, even from Peterson’s own family.
“Oh yeah,” Peterson said of his family cheering for the Cowboys. “It is what it is. I don’t really get into it that much. Some of them, I’m sure they’re going to root for me as well, but if the Cowboys win, that’s what they’re going to be hoping for.”
Peterson grew up following the Cowboys, like the rest of his family. He was a fan of Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek.
“They had so much talent on that team, you couldn’t help but like a lot of those players,” Peterson said.
With the Vikings traveling to Dallas this weekend, Minnesota has had to scrounge up extra tickets. Christian Ponder is returning to his hometown as well. But as Ponder said Wednesday, Peterson “has the whole state of Texas coming for him.”
In actuality, Peterson said he acquired 62 tickets for his family. It’s the third time in his NFL career Peterson will be playing in the state of Texas. As a rookie in 2007, he was held to 63 yards on 12 carries in Dallas. Last season, he had 25 carries for 86 yards at Houston, sitting much of the fourth quarter while playing through a sports hernia.
“I’d be lying to say it didn’t mean something,” Peterson said. “Anytime you play at home and play against the Cowboys, the team I grew up watching and liking. My hometown’s an hour and change from there. It’s still another game, but then again, having family there. Dallas is where I lost my brother as well, stayed there for a few years before we moved back to Palestine. So, you know, it’s always good to go back there.”
Peterson could use some home cooking and some extra support. He’s been held under 100 yards rushing in each of the past three games and has just 36 carries over that stretch as the Vikings have faced big deficits.
Peterson is still dealing with hamstring tightness as well. He said his mind has been eased after getting a magnetic resonance imaging test to show nothing was torn. Before getting the MRI, Peterson said he felt he was holding himself back mentally because of the injury.
“Now that I have the confidence that nothing is torn or it’s not a tear or anything like that, then it’s just all about just making sure that it’s loose, prevent anything else,” Peterson said. “I’m playing with confidence. The last week I felt good, probably the best I’ve felt in a couple weeks. This week I’ve just got better.”
Peterson started last week’s game with 10 carries for 46 yards in the first half and scored an important touchdown at the end of the half to bring Minnesota within seven points at halftime. But Green Bay scored on its first possession of the second half and Peterson had three carries for 14 yards in the second half as the Vikings lost their third-straight game.
Using heat to warm up his injured hamstring helped Peterson play on Sunday.
“Once I get warmed up and get going, that’s going to be the most important thing,” Peterson said. “Last week, stretching it a lot, putting some heat on there and getting past that warm-up stage and loosen the muscle up and I was able to do that last week and it felt good. So, it’s going to be the same routine.”
Despite the struggles since the Week 4 win against Pittsburgh, Peterson doesn’t believe this season is taking on the same feel as 2011 when Minnesota went 3-13. He said he hasn’t talked to the team to deliver any messages prior to this week’s game against the NFC East-leading Cowboys.
“I think the message is already out there,” Peterson said. “We’re 1-6 so the urgency is there. Guys are practicing hard and focusing. It’s the vibe. I definitely don’t feel like a couple of years when we were sitting here with only three wins at the end of the season. It’s not that type of vibe.
“Guys are continuing to fight. They know what we need to do. They’re tired of hearing people talk. We’ve been talking for five to six weeks. It’s time to get out there and be productive and get it done.”
Signs point to Ponder getting the start back in his hometown, but Minnesota really needs to get Peterson going again.
Dallas is 17th in the league against the run, allowing 107.1 yards per game. This season — after ending last year with 100-plus rushing yards in nine of the last 10 games — Peterson has eclipsed 100 yards twice in seven games.
“I’m not frustrated by that,” Peterson said. “The only thing that would be frustrating about it is we’re losing. So you definitely want to get the ball a little more. I think the last three games, 13 carries, I don’t think that’s ever happened in my career. So we’ll put the emphasis on the run, and not to get frustrated. I’m not worried about yards, I’m worried about ‘Ws’ and getting a win.
“A lot of people kind of get that twisted when asking me are you thinking about the (single-season rushing) record. Are you worried about the yards you’re getting? I’m worried about winning. I don’t’ want to be 1-6. So this week will be a good to get back on track offensively and get back to what we do best.”