Peterson, Vikings focused on ‘seizing this moment’

The Minnesota Vikings raced forward with their rebuilding

project last season by finishing 10-6 and reaching the playoffs

ahead of expectations, a feel-good ride behind those 2,097 yards

rushing by Adrian Peterson.

With Peterson in his prime and a bunch of recent high draft

picks with the potential to be future cogs, there’s a sturdy

blueprint in place along with lingering concerns. Standout

defensive end Jared Allen is in his 10th year in the league and the

last in his current contract. Of the 22 starters, 10 are 28 or

older.

”I’m hoping that they’ll just think about that fact, that how

important this moment is, that you can’t be looking toward next

year,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “You can’t be looking back at

the past, but being able to seize this moment.”

Peterson will again be the featured attraction, but here are

five things to know about the Vikings beyond the league MVP award

winner:

PONDER’S PROGRESS: Christian Ponder has to take several steps

forward in his development this season for the Vikings to be in

championship contention, but quarterbacks have often flourished in

their third year. If he doesn’t, the Vikings will have to consider

starting all over at the game’s most important position.

DOWN ON THE CORNER: With Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew

Stafford in the division and Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Robert

Griffin III among other standout passers on the schedule, the

performance of the cornerbacks could prove to be critical for the

Vikings.

The departure of Antoine Winfield, who was cut before his $7.25

million salary at age 36 kicked in, left a large void. His sure

tackling and sage leadership won’t be replaced. Success will hinge

on the ability of Chris Cook, Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes to

keep opposing receivers from breaking loose in the secondary,

produce some timely interceptions and pass breakups and, of course,

stay healthy.

The last one on that list could be as tough to achieve as any.

Cook, a second-round draft pick in 2010, missed 16 games to

injuries over his first three years. Robinson, a third-round

selection in 2012, and Rhodes, one of three first-round picks this

year, each missed practice days with hamstring strains.

RIVALS RECRUITED: The modern history of the Vikings has included

several chapters on former Packers who crossed the border to join

their NFC North foes, most notably Brett Favre. That pipeline from

Green Bay hasn’t dried up yet, as evidenced by the arrival of wide

receiver Greg Jennings and linebacker Desmond Bishop, both key

contributors to the Super Bowl champion Packers of 2010-11 and

their 15-1 record the following season.

Jennings was limited by an abdominal injury to a career-low 366

yards last year, and Bishop missed the whole season because of a

torn hamstring. But even though they might be past their primes,

they can still help the Vikings compete with their

friends-turned-enemies.

Jennings will be Ponder’s best target, a savvy route runner with

sure hands and a knack for the end zone who’s being asked to mentor

raw first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson. Bishop missed

training camp time due to a groin problem and has been behind

Marvin Mitchell on the depth chart at the weak side spot, but the

Vikings need a steady presence next to Erin Henderson, who has

moved to the middle position for the first time.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE TANDEM: Kevin Williams is 12 years older than

Sharrif Floyd, so it’s clear who will be manning the under tackle

position next year and beyond. For now, the plan is a time share,

to limit the wear and tear on the six-time Pro Bowl pick Williams

and ease in the rookie from Florida, the first of those three

first-round picks.

Williams has declined in recent years, but the Vikings believed

he was worth keeping, that fewer snaps and a fresher body can yield

valuable contributions from Williams in what will likely be his

last of 11 seasons with the team.

Health has already become a concern, however. Floyd had a minor

operation to relieve pain in his left knee last week. He’s expected

to be ready for the opener at Detroit on Sept. 8, but Williams

might not. Blindsided by a low block in the preseason, Williams has

a hyperextended right knee and a significant bone bruise around the

joint.

STADIUM SAGA: The Vikings secured funding approval last year

from the state for a new stadium, and they’re planning to open it

for the 2016 season after playing two years at the University of

Minnesota. The timetable has tightened, with the public agency in

charge of it examining the personal finances of team owner Zygi

Wilf and his family. The Wilf brothers committed fraud and contract

breach with an apartment development, a New Jersey judge ruled

recently, and they’ll likely have to pay a hefty fine. Both sides

have said repeatedly there’s no danger to the stadium project.

Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Dave Campbell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP