Peterson excited to be more involved in Vikings’ passing game
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson’s presence during the voluntary portions of the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason program has never been certain.
Peterson — whose work ethic speaks for itself — has often spent much of the offseason at his home in Texas, training on his own and showing up at Winter Park periodically during the offseason. The results aren’t to be disputed. Peterson is still one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Yet, Peterson made it a point to be in Minnesota this week as part of the Vikings’ voluntary minicamp.
"I wanted to come in and get a good feel for things," Peterson said. "I just came in like two weeks ago for a day. But this voluntary minicamp was something that I had wanted to attend, get into the offense and get around the players and the coaches."
So what has he learned?
"Yeah, I got a pretty good sense," Peterson said of his role in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense. "Definitely going to be involved more in the pass game. That’s something I look forward to. When he was in San Diego and Cleveland, he always found a way to get the running back out in space. So, I knew once we hired him that will be something would new for me. I’m pretty excited about that."
A "down" season in 2013, which was marred by groin and foot injuries, still resulted in 1,266 rushing yards for Peterson, the fifth-highest total in the league. Playing in 14 games, he averaged 90.4 rushing yards per game, which was second in the NFL behind Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (100.4 yards per game).
He soon might have something else in common with McCoy. While Peterson has been dominating the league’s rushing charts since entering the league in 2007, he hasn’t been much of a pass catcher. His career-high is 43 catches in 2009. Last year he finished with 29 catches for 171 yards.
McCoy, for example, had 52 catches for an additional 539 yards. Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles, who finished ahead of Peterson in rushing yards, caught 74 and 70 passes, respectively.
Peterson is excited about the opportunity to be more involved in the passing game.
"I’ve caught a lot of passes," Peterson said. "I just haven’t had an offense that really distributes the ball to the running back a lot. That will change, for sure . . . You can kind of balance it out. If you’re getting eight to 10 catches — that’s a pretty high number, I would think — it’ll kind of balance out. The rushing yards might not be up to par, but it’s not about that. It’s all about winning. I’m trying to win a championship, so if that’s taking less of a pounding and being more productive in the pass game, I’m all in for it."
Turner is also excited about the possibilities.
"There’s no question any offense is based on getting its best players involved," Turner said. "Adrian is obviously our best player, but we have a lot of other guys who can make plays and the best offenses I’ve been with utilize everybody. You get five guys who can legally handle the ball and we want to use them all. We want to be a diversified offense that can make explosive plays, but we want to run the football and certainly that starts with Adrian."
Peterson isn’t a spring chicken. Now 29, he’s approaching the dreaded age-30 for NFL running backs.
He admits to feeling some urgency as the wear on his body takes its toll and the carries accumulate. Peterson underwent offseason surgery for the third consecutive offseason, this time to repair a nagging groin injury.
Peterson said he feels about "80 percent" and is still working to regain strength in the groin and balance. The surgeries adding up haven’t changed his determined outlook.
"I’ve had some unfortunate injuries the past three years, but I feel like I’ve been able to bounce back," Peterson said. "I really don’t look at the age thing as really an issue. You see guys stay in this league way past 34 (and) perform at a high level. I just try to keep my mind focused on the positive things, and being in this situation as far as recovering, I’m just taking care of my body, doing what I have to do. I have no doubts that when the season comes around, I’ll be ready to roll. Like I said during that season, I didn’t really feel at all that I was 100 percent. But things just worked out that year."
The urgency, and the necessity in showing up for the voluntary minicamp, is accentuated with the new offense being installed by Turner.
"Yeah, definitely some urgency, especially after being around this offense," Peterson said. "Oof, it’s like performing heart surgery without having a license, a license to do so. It’s going to take some time, but the last three days, I was able to kind of pick up the offense, the terminology. It’s all growing pains that we’re all going through, but I’m excited to see what we’re going to be able to do here in the future, but we have a long ways to go."
Peterson watched from afar as Minnesota changed coaches this offseason. He was particularly interested to see how general manager Rick Spielman would replace Leslie Frazier, who Peterson spoke out in support of late last season.
As the face of the franchise, Peterson wanted to see where the Vikings went next. He likes what he’s seen and heard.
"Yeah, I was pretty excited in hiring (Mike) Zimmer and then bringing in Turner," Peterson said. "And then actually being around those guys and kind of listen to their philosophy, and now being able to participate, it’s a lot to take in. We have a long way to go, but I’m excited about the direction we’re headed in."
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