Adrian Peterson has spent the last month dealing with a hamstring injury that, while it hasn’t been serious enough to sideline him, has been a hindrance to the NFL’s most dominant running back.
But Peterson on Thursday acknowledged that the worst of the injury problem is behind him and he is feeling markedly better than he did just a couple of weeks ago.
“The hamstring is feeling good,” Peterson said. “There’s still a little tightness, but I’m feeling comfortable with where it’s at – knowing just stretching and getting it warm is what I’ll need and I’ll be ready to go.”
At first, Peterson was concerned that the injury could be more severe because it happened in his lower hamstring, which is close to the knee. When he first experienced pain, it felt like knee pain, not a thigh muscle pain.
“It’s just the hamstring,” Peterson said. “Your lower hamstring is connected down at the bottom towards your knee, so that’s why initially the side of my knee was giving me problems. But that’s where the hamstring connects.”
While he never publicly panicked, behind the scenes Peterson was concerned because he simply didn’t know what the problem was. When an MRI showed it was a hamstring strain, he breathed a sigh of relief because he knows all too well how much damage a knee injury can cause. He knew the hamstring would take time to heal, but that it likely wouldn’t get worse over time.
“I got the MRI done and it came back good,” Peterson said. “(It was) just a strain low down by the knee where the hamstring attaches. That (gave me) confidence because, before then, I didn’t know what was going on. Was something torn? You guys know how your mind can do you at times. Just having that security after getting the results back, I was able to play a lot better than I had the past two weeks.”
The biggest obstacle Peterson faced last week was that the Vikings offense wasn’t on the field long enough for him to get his game warmed up. The Vikings ran just 43 offensive plays, which forced him to use an unorthodox method of keeping the hamstring warm and preventing it from tightening up.
“Once I get warmed up and get going, that’s going to be the most important thing,” Peterson said. “Last week, (I was) stretching it a lot, putting some heat on there and getting past that warm-up stage to loosen the muscle up. I was able to do that last week and it felt good, so it’s going to be the same routine.”
The Vikings offense had the ball for just 19 minutes last Sunday against the Packers, and Peterson said that what Aaron Rodgers did to the Vikings defense dictated the pace of the game and kept Peterson and his offensive teammates on the sideline for far too long.
“I was telling some family what Rodgers did, that doesn’t happen every Sunday,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, it happened to us. Those guys scored on every possession and took a lot of time off the clock. I’m sure we’ll never experience that again.”
The key for Peterson this week will be keeping the hamstring loose because he said once he gets warmed up, the tightness goes away and he feels like himself on the field. That wasn’t the case last Sunday and that’s something the Vikings will have to change this week.
“Last week, for instance, on the sidelines, I’m there with a heating pad just to keep it loose,” Peterson said. “It worked out well. But any time you can get going, it can create some drives. Obviously, that helps with you being loose. Not only me, but other guys, too. Guys are sitting down for seven, eight, 10 minutes, you’re going to get stiff. I’m just going to stay with the same routine and keep a heat pad on there. I’ll be ready to roll.”
Although Peterson’s carries have been reduced to 33 carries over the Vikings’ three-game losing streak, he doesn’t believe there will be significant changes to the approach the Vikings take against Dallas on Sunday. The Vikings have an offensive identity that starts and finishes with No. 28 getting his hands on the ball and doing what so few other running backs in the NFL are capable of doing – dominated a game.
“We are a running team,” Peterson said. “The Minnesota Vikings, that’s what we do. It’s all about getting back to that groove and, whoever we play, making sure that we establish the run game.”
Head coach Leslie Frazier agreed.
“We want to give him more carries. We are on board with that,” Frazier said with a laugh. “We’ve got to play better from a lot of areas and get him more carries. We all know for him to have 13 carries, 10 carries, that’s not the design by any means.”
CB Chris Cook (hip) and S Jamarca Sanford (groin), both starters, didn’t practice for the second straight day, causing concern about a secondary that was already limited.
“If Chris and Jamarca couldn’t go, that really thins us out, especially at the safety position,” Frazier said. “We do have some depth at corner, but still young guys. It’s a little scary when you start getting into your depth this early in the season.”
Frazier said they don’t want to go into the game having only three safeties and they could consider promoting Brandan Bishop from the practice squad.
If Sanford and Cook are able to practice on Friday, they would play, Frazier said.
The size of the Cowboys’ receivers wouldn’t necessarily dictate that the Vikings play their bigger cornerbacks, according to Frazier. Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Terrance Williams are all 6-foot-2.
“I just want the best guy or the guy who can get the job done. That would be the most important thing,” Frazier said.
Frazier stuck with his original plan of naming his starting quarterback on Friday, despite prompting from reporters to reveal it Thursday.
WR Greg Jennings was limited Thursday after being held out of practice on Wednesday. Jennings injured his knee in a workout on his day off (Tuesday), according to Frazier, but an MRI wasn’t necessary.
“Just got a little sore, a little knee soreness so we just gave him a day off to rest that and today he was good,” Frazier said.
TE Rhett Ellison was expected to be ready for Sunday’s game, but he didn’t practice again Thursday after what Frazier classified as a high ankle sprain against the Carolina Panthers.
DT Fred Evans returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after missing Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury. RT Phil Loadholt (illness) was also limited.
The Vikings won’t rush RB Matt Asiata back into action. He has been gone this week dealing with the death of his father after an accident in Utah Monday.
For the Cowboys, WR Miles Austin (hamstring), CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring), LB Devonte Holloman (neck), S Danny McCray (hip/toe), DE DeMarcus Ware (thigh), G Brian Waters (elbow) and S J.J. Wilcox (knee) didn’t practice. S Barry Church (hamstring) and DT Jason Hatcher (neck) were limited.
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.