EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Another preseason has come and gone with very little activity for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Last year, Peterson proved he didn’t need the preseason en route to the MVP award and the second-highest, single-season rushing total in NFL history. He played two snaps in the third preseason game this time around and didn’t carry the ball, so Peterson is itching for Sunday’s regular-season opener against Detroit.
“I’m looking forward to it, man,” Peterson said. “I’ve been sitting out, obviously, in the preseason. So I’m wired up. I’m trying to stay relaxed and not get too excited for this upcoming game and just making sure the preparation is where it needs to be this week and get ready to roll on Sunday.”
Peterson missed the preseason last year as coaches held him out during his recovery from knee surgery. This year, the coaches were conservative to keep Peterson healthy and ready for Sunday’s first game.
In 11 career games against Detroit, Peterson has rushed for 1,165 yards and averaged 5.37 yards-per-carry. Of teams he’s faced more than twice, Peterson’s yards-per-carry average against the Lions trails only his efforts against the Green Bay Packers (5.61 in 12 meetings) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5.56 in three games).
In the final meeting between Detroit and Minnesota last season, Peterson had 171 yards rushing in a Vikings win.
Without Peterson in the backfield, the preseason focus for Minnesota was on the passing game. The Lions know they can’t take much away from watching the Vikings in the preseason.
“Yeah, because I imagine they’re going to hand it to Adrian Peterson,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday.
Minnesota’s offense will change Sunday against the Lions and Peterson will get to exercise any first-game anxiety. But the two teams know each other well and the onus is on playing well.
The Vikings open with two road games within the division before returning home to play the Cleveland Browns — who Peterson set a team opening day record against in 2009 with 180 yards rushing.
“That first game you really get to see what your guys are made of, what you’re going to be able to expect in all phases,” Peterson said. “So it counts. It’s important. You don’t want those early games to come back and haunt you. So every game matters.”
Peterson has made his personal goals well-known, including 2,500 rushing yards, which would shatter the league record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. Peterson made the proclamation earlier this offseason and hasn’t backed away. His main goal is helping the Vikings get to the Super Bowl.
Peterson didn’t need an MVP award to be emboldened. He’s one of the most confident players around and said he hasn’t change because he’s the reigning MVP.
“To be honest with you, I’ve thought in the past that I was the MVP, and I just didn’t win,” Peterson said. “Winning this year, it feels good, but I still approach it with the same mindset: Come in and work my butt off. I play to be the best, apply it to the game and to life with that mindset, and everything else will work out.”