Adrian Peterson (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
Adrian Peterson still isn’t 100 percent, but he said he finally felt like he played a full football game last week. That’s what a 25-carry day against a physical defense will do, and Peterson couldn’t have been happier to have the old feeling of soreness return.
It’s been more than three weeks since Adrian Peterson returned to a thunderous ovation at the Metrodome, marking his return to action following reconstructive knee surgery.
While his official return came against Jacksonville, in his mind it wasn’t until last Sunday’s game against San Francisco that he felt he was finally back and playing football like he has for so many years in his career.
“To be honest, I think the rust just got knocked off against San Fran,” Peterson said. “The previous two weeks when I woke on Monday, my body felt great – (except for) a little soreness in my knee. I woke of Monday after this game and I felt like I played some football. I feel like the rust is knocked off. That’s what I needed and I’ll be ready to roll even better.”
After having 17 and 16 carries in his first two games of the season, Peterson finally eclipsed the 20-carry mark in a win against San Francisco, carrying 25 times for 86 yards.
Peterson is also thrilled about the change in attitude that the Vikings are displaying in practice. Last year, as the Vikings were mired in a franchise-worst 3-13 season it seemed as though a dark cloud hovered over the facility at Winter Park. Peterson said the enthusiasm surrounding this year’s team is infectious and spreading.
“It’s night and day,” Peterson said of the difference in attitude. “The type of season we had last year, we really don’t want to experience that again. It’s different. The guys are upbeat, positive. We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team and that win last week was big for us – just being motivated and just believing.”
While many of the Vikings felt last week’s win over the 49ers, who had been anointed as the NFC’s best team through the first two weeks of the season after throttling both Green Bay and Detroit, was big, winning Sunday would be even better for them. Not because the Lions are better than San Francisco, but because it would snap the team’s current 11-game division losing streak.
When asked if that streak sticks in the craws of Vikings players, at least in Peterson’s it didn’t … until now.
“To be honest, that hasn’t been stuck in my head because I didn’t know,” Peterson said. “It’s 11. Wow! It’s a good thing I didn’t know. It’s time to end that. It’s time to get back on track and start playing Vikings football.”
Peterson didn’t score a touchdown last week in the victory over San Francisco, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying. The team pounded him on the ground in the red zone, but his best chance to score a TD was on a play that didn’t go his way. On Christian Ponder’s second touchdown of the game to Kyle Rudolph, Peterson was left uncovered in the end zone and Ponder could have lofted the ball underhanded to A.P. for a score but didn’t see him – despite Peterson doing his best Randy Moss imitation.
The running back threw his hand in the air in hopes of getting Ponder’s attention, which was quickly replaced by jumping up and down. When he saw the ball going to Rudolph, who was being tightly covered, he had one thought – he better catch it.
“That’s exactly what I thinking, I can’t lie,” Peterson said. “I was wide open. The free safety came off the edge and I just remember him throwing the ball in Kyle’s direction. I saw him adjust his body – it was a heck of a catch. I’m watching the play frame by frame. I saw the ball hit his hand and the only thing I could do was run, just in case it got tipped or something and I could dive on it. When he caught it, I was like, ‘Oh, thank you, Jesus.’ Because I was open, if that had been an incomplete pass, (Ponder) would have heard about that. Definitely.”
With his confidence in his surgically repaired knee growing, Peterson wants to take on an even larger role in the coming weeks. One thing he would admit is that he’s getting tired of being asked to put a percentage on his recovery, which he again had to claim is about 95 percent.
His hope is that his performance on the field will let everyone know he’s 100 percent, but, in his own mind if won’t come if he makes a move that springs him for a 70-yard touchdown gallop. Instead, it will be when he looks in a mirror and one leg isn’t smaller than the other. When that day happens, he will be ready (and willing) to proclaim himself fully healed and back to the “old A.P.” of pre-injury vintage.
“I’m feeling good,” Peterson said. “Trust me. I’ll let you know when I’m 100 percent.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.