C.J. Spiller has several reasons for wanting to seek out Adrian Peterson after Buffalo’s preseason game against Minnesota on Friday night.
First, the Bills running back intends to playfully rib the Vikings star rusher for nudging out Spiller by a mere fraction in averaging an NFL-best 6.025 yards per carry last season. Spiller averaged 6.009 yards, leading him to wonder whether Peterson couldn’t have eased up just a little.
“He couldn’t have let me just go ahead and be the yards per carry guy?” Spiller said, with a big grin. “Why did he have to ruin them plans?”
More important, Spiller added with a much straighter face, he’d like to get a few pointers on what it took Peterson last season to become the seventh NFL player to reach 2,000 yards rushing. After all, that happens to be one of Spiller’s objectives this year.
“It’s something you strive for,” he said. “When you’re in this business, you always want to be considered one of the best. And right now, (Peterson’s) done set the bar very high for every other running back.”
Peterson has a pat answer prepared for Spiller’s query.
“Keep your knees pumping,” Peterson said this week. “Just run every play like it’s your last play, and believe that you can do it. Have faith.”
Spiller has renewed faith in believing he’s poised to build upon his breakout season. The third-year player finished eighth in the NFL with a career-best 1,244 yards rushing. And he did so despite just 207 carries in being under-utilized by former coach Chan Gailey, who was wary of wearing down the player.
Spiller has a new coach in Doug Marrone, who is introducing an up-tempo offense that places an emphasis on speedy playmakers. And then there’s new coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, who has made no secret of how much he plans to lean on Spiller.
“We are going to give him the ball until he throws up,” Hackett said during a recent interview on Buffalo’s WGR-Radio. “So he has to either throw up or tap out on the field.”
Spiller got a kick out of that comment.
“I don’t think I’ll throw up or anything like that,” Spiller said. “But I’m going to be ready for the challenge.”
Don’t blink Friday, because Spiller and Peterson aren’t likely to see much — if any — action in each team’s second preseason game.
Peterson didn’t play in 27-13 loss to Houston on Aug. 9. And it’s not yet been determined whether he’ll face Buffalo.
“To be honest with you, it really doesn’t matter,” Peterson said. “I’m going to be ready to play, coming out extra hard. So if I’m going to get reps in the preseason, I’m in for it. If not, I’ll still be ready to go.”
In Buffalo, Spiller’s workload has been scaled back during the first three weeks of training camp. And he had four carries for 36 yards in two series in a 44-20 win over Indianapolis on Sunday.
“We can’t show all of our arsenal,” Spiller said. “But I’m pretty sure that once the season comes, we’ll have a great game plan in how we’ll utilize me and try to take advantage of my quickness and speed.”
With Spiller and veteran Fred Jackson in the Bills backfield, running back is among the least of Marrone’s concerns. The two ease the pressure on a team in the midst of a quarterback competition between veteran Kevin Kolb and rookie first-round pick E.J. Manuel.
“I think everyone’s aware of (Spiller’s) talent. It’s a talent that we want to be able to lean on,” Marrone said. “When you have a young football team, and a quarterback competition, I feel very good that we have both C.J. and Fred back there.”
Kolb will start Friday. He returned to practice this week after twisting his left knee on Aug. 3.
Last season was validation for Spiller in proving what he’s capable of after having difficulty finding a regular role during his first two years in Buffalo.
“It was definitely a confidence-booster. I knew all along I could be in this league,” said Spiller, noting he was aware of critics questioning whether the Bills missed in selecting him with the ninth pick in the 2010 draft.
“My family kept hearing the stories of, you know, ‘They need to trade him. He’s a bust,’” Spiller said. “I just told them, ‘Don’t worry about it. When my time comes, I’ll pretty much prove everybody wrong.’”
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