EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson led the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs by rushing for the second-highest single-season total in NFL history.
If Peterson had it his way, he would have done even more and is willing to do more in Saturday’s playoff game at Green Bay. He’s accomplished nearly everything possible as a running back, so what else could Peterson do?
How about special teams?
“Yeah, for the past two years I’ve been trying to get on (the) field-goal block; come off the edge,” Peterson said Wednesday. “It’s going to take one block for them to just really be like, ‘OK, you know what? We’ll take the chance and let you go out there and get it done.’ Kickoff return, I wouldn’t mind getting back there. Hey, I’m in it to win.”
Peterson finished his comeback season from knee surgery with an NFL-high 2,097 rushing yards. He added 40 catches, the second-best total of his career, for 217 receiving yards. He led the league with 2,314 yards from scrimmage and was tied for third with 13 touchdowns. But Peterson wants to do more.
The last time Peterson returned a kickoff was in his second season for the Vikings in 2008, with one return in the playoffs. He did have 16 returns for a 25.8-yard average in his rookie season when he was a part-time starter at running back along with Chester Taylor.
But one of the league’s biggest stars, a possible MVP this season, wouldn’t really want to play special teams, would he?
“Ask him; he always asks,” Minnesota special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “He’s a football player. Gunner, field-goal block, returner. The guy is awesome. I always say yes, and then I ask the head coach and he says no. I know what the answer is going to be; I don’t even have to ask.”
Minnesota has one of the league’s most dynamic returners, a true star who does play special teams. Percy Harvin would have led the league with a 35.9-yard average on kickoffs this year if he had enough returns to qualify, but he is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Trailing by a touchdown or less late in the game, Peterson said he’d want to be out there taking the kickoff return.
“Yeah, I believe in having your best players on the field, especially in critical times,” Peterson said. “You never know what can happen. That’s what I would do.”
As unlikely as it seems, even Priefer didn’t completely rule it out.
“The last four weeks, that idea has popped up in my head, but that’s as far as it has gone,” Priefer said. “To be quite honest with you, if we had to use him at the end of the game for a big return, we always have the cards down there in case we have any subs, so we would show him exactly where the return is supposed to hit and let him do his magic. There’s absolutely an opportunity for him to go back there I would think in a crucial situation.”
In the meantime, Peterson will have to settle for making his mark on offense against Green Bay, a team that greatly aided his pursuit of the single-season rushing record.
Peterson rushed for 409 total yards in the two games against the Packers this season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the fourth-highest total by anyone in a single season against one opponent in NFL history. In 12 career games against Green Bay, Peterson has rushed for an average of 120.2 yards per game, the most of any team he has faced more than twice in his career, and he averages 5.61 yards per carry against the Packers. Facing Green Bay for the second time in two weeks and the third time in little more than a month, he believes he can keep the success going.
“Just go out and stay consistent with the run game,” Peterson said. “We’re definitely going to establish the run and that starts up front; with the guys out wide contributing as well and just being balanced. I thought if we can continue to be balanced, like last week, then you can’t really crowd the box. If you do, we’re going to go over your head and vice versa. So just staying balanced, everyone playing the way we been playing in all phases and we will continue to be productive as an offense.”
Peterson had a career-high 34 carries last week and the second-highest carries total of his career this season (348) after recovering from knee surgery last December. He said he feels good aside from the abdominal injury he’s dealt with for the past few weeks and that his surgically repaired right knee is ready for the pounding of the playoffs.
“I get in the cold tub, do (hot and cold) contrasts to try to take care of my body throughout the week and during the season, and it’s been working,” Peterson said. “Like I say, I feel goooooood. My body feels great. I could play for 12 more games if I have to.”