EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson was in the middle of answering a reporter’s question Thursday, speaking about how he’ll do anything to help the Minnesota Vikings succeed.
Peterson, coming off back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time this season, said it doesn’t matter if he has to have, “100 yards, 80 yards, 60 yards receiving, 300 yards rushing, I’m going to try and get it done.”
Wait a minute? 300 yards rushing?
“Yeah, it’s possible,” Peterson said. “Come on now, you know that.”
Such a lofty number would be hyperbole coming from most NFL running backs. Of course, Peterson isn’t just any running back. He knows what it takes to reach that number, falling just four yards short during his rookie year, when he set the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers.
Mentioning 300 yards also offers insight to the way Peterson feels about his season. There was no easing back following major knee surgery at the end of December. He doesn’t even discuss his torn ACL much anymore. He has returned nearly as strong as ever and now leads the league in rushing through eight weeks with 775 yards on 151 carries, a 5.1-yard average.
Peterson, who has led the NFL in rushing just once during his standout five seasons in the league, takes pride in returning to the top of the list and regaining his spot as one of the elite backs in the game.
“I said all the time, when I worked in the offseason, I worked to be the best,” Peterson said. “So, I take a lot of pride in it. But it’s still a long season, and I’m focusing on that. I’m just now the league-leading rusher. You know, seven weeks before that, I wasn’t. So, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s all how you finish up.”
Peterson, who has rushed for 276 yards the past two games, seems ready to finish strong. A longer break following last Thursday’s game was beneficial to him, and the rest helped his sore left ankle improve and his body rejuvenate.
“Still nagging a little bit, but it’s nothing that’s going to stop me from playing or anything,” Peterson said. “I’m just doing the necessary things to get it where I want it, get it back full and get the strength back. But it’s better than it was, yeah.”
Step by step this season, Peterson said he has gotten stronger and closer to the elite level he was at during his first four seasons. Each week, he has shown a little bit more in games, whether it’s strength, his unique cutting ability or his explosiveness – on display last week when he broke free for his longest run of the season, a 64-yard touchdown.
“He’s very intent, as we know, very driven and has just worked tremendously hard to get his body back in shape,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “He’s even sharper this year than he was last year in terms of pass protection. So, all things are really pointing in the right direction with him.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the team has seen an increase of blitzes by teams in recent games as Peterson’s production has improved. Those blitzes are designed almost as much to slow Peterson as to disrupt quarterback Christian Ponder.
Peterson says he’s used to teams using run blitzes to stop him. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before, while racking up more than 1,000 yards each of his first four seasons prior to falling short last season because of injuries.
The attention from defenses hasn’t stopped Peterson’s numbers from rising in recent games.
“I feel like I’ve been in a groove all year, the entire season so far,” Peterson said. “Just the numbers really haven’t showed it. That’s pretty much what you base it off of, two 100-yard games. But I’ve kind of been in a groove as far as me personally all season, I feel like.”