Peterson delivers on promise to be more vocal
Adrian Peterson has largely let his play do the talking for him during his first four seasons in the league.
With his Minnesota Vikings off to an 0-4 start, something had to change.
Peterson promised to be a more vocal leader in an effort to get the team turned around, and he delivered on that in a 34-10 victory over Arizona on Sunday.
The $36 million man put his mouth where his money is.
Peterson didn't just rush for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He delivered a couple of pep talks to his offense in the second half to make sure they didn't give another big lead away.
''I just came out with the mindset of, by any means, get it done,'' Peterson said. ''Do your part. And that's the message I told the guys up front. 'Do your part, get it done. Do it for 60 minutes until the whistle blows.'''
Coach Leslie Frazier said he planned to pull the offensive line aside late in the fourth quarter to urge them to finish the game strong and not let the Cardinals get any hope of getting back in the game after falling behind 28-0 in the first quarter.
That's when Peterson stepped in.
''He said, 'Coach I got it. Let me talk to them. I'll handle it,''' Frazier said. ''I was like, 'Whoa, this is our star player stepping up in a leadership role and saying, 'I'll handle it. Let me handle it.'''
For the first time all season, the Vikings closed a game out, getting Frazier his first victory as the permanent head coach in Minnesota and the team its first win of the season - one it desperately needed. The Vikings (1-4) play at Chicago on Sunday night and then host Green Bay, two must-wins if they have any hope of being a factor in the NFC North.
The sense of urgency was evident in Peterson all week. After the Vikings' fourth straight defeat to start the season - a woeful effort in Kansas City - Peterson vowed to take a more active role in the locker room.
For all the force and ferocity he plays with on the field, Peterson has been quiet and humble in the locker room. He's a favorite among teammates and one of the league's shining stars, but Peterson deferred to more established veterans such as Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen and Brett Favre when it came to locker room leadership.
He signed a huge contract extension in the offseason, and now in the middle of his fifth season, it appears that Peterson has become more comfortable voicing his opinion.
''We did what we have been preaching and I sensed it,'' Peterson said. ''I sensed it in all phases, defensively, offensively, special teams - the guys came out ready to play, came out with the mindset of finishing four quarters. I feel like when we do that as a team, we can't be stopped.''
Peterson also continued to set an example on the field. He ripped off three touchdowns in the first quarter against the Cardinals, scoring on runs of 4, 24 and 14 yards to get the Vikings off on the right foot. He twice ran over rookie defensive back Patrick Peterson near the goal line to set the tone early.
Only four other players have scored three TDs in the first quarter of a game in league history - Eric Dickerson in 1988, James Stewart in 1997, and Stephen Davis and Tim Biakabutuka in 1999.
''When you've got a running back like 2-8,'' receiver Percy Harvin said, ''just give him a little something and he'll make the most of it.''
Leadership in the locker room hasn't been an issue in Minnesota, where Allen, Hutchinson, Kevin Williams and E.J. Henderson have formed a solid front in delivering Frazier's message to the rank and file and keeping the team together during the difficult start.
But Frazier was elated to see the face of the franchise assume a bigger role in that area as well.
''From my vantage point, that is huge when you get that out of your best players,'' Frazier said. ''He's a great player and turned out to be an excellent leader for us as well.''
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