Adrian Peterson (A. Foreman/Viking Update)
Running back Adrian Peterson has been limited with tightness in his left leg and his coaches admit that he could use the extra work that training camp affords. Peterson is one of many dealing with injuries in the first week of camp.
Adrian Peterson has spent more time inside than out on the practice field while he tries to alleviate “tightness” in his left leg, an injury that first started limiting him over the weekend.
The star running back’s presence in the lineup is even more pronounced this year because the Vikings have little in the way of experienced backs behind him after they allowed Chester Taylor to leave for Chicago in free agency.
Albert Young carried the ball only 12 times last year, his first season on the active roster, and Toby Gerhart is a rookie second-round pick. The Vikings also picked up Ryan Moats off waivers, have Ian Johnson making a play for a promotion from last year’s practice squad, and Darius Reynaud is still making the transition from receiver to running back this offseason.
The Vikings are likely being cautious with Peterson since it is so early in the preseason process. But, while Peterson has improved in picking up blitzes since his rookie season, he could still use work.
“It is important to get Adrian as many reps as he can,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “He is still a relatively young player. When he first got here it was turn around, hand the ball and let him run. He can still bring himself along in terms of nuances of the offense, reading the zone play, picking up protection, those types of things. He still needs every rep he can get.”
Peterson has spent some time on the practice field in recent days, but that has involved mostly watching. With Taylor, the league’s leading third-down running back last year, now with the Bears, Peterson is likely to see more regular-season action on third downs.
He was among the six players last year that had 40 or more catches, so the ability is there. But that ability isn’t likely to improve when it’s not put into practice.
“It’s big to be able to spread the ball around as much as we can. We like to use Adrian. He’s a great talent, obviously,” Bevell said. “Adrian is great in the run game and has the ability to catch the ball, but his protection is something he needs to focus on. He will be in there at times on third down and at times with the two-minute personnel, so keep in mind we give him the ball a lot and at some point we have to get him off the field.”
At some point during training camp, they are hoping to get him back on the field as well.
“You hate missed practice time, and that’s for anybody,” head coach Brad Childress said. “We’re going to have some variety of blitz drill every day though. It’s not like that’s a finite number. You like to get him in when the base work is going on and then being able to recognize disguises and things like that. He’s there during all the film studies and typically there’s rules that pertain and it happens a lot faster. The sooner the better.”
Peterson has plenty of company when it comes to players either sitting out of practice with injuries or their practice time being curtailed a bit early in camp because of health issues. Sidney Rice and Cedric Griffin haven’t practiced yet. Benny Sapp and J Leman also missed practice on Wednesday, and several other players have had reps curtailed because of injuries.
But there is an upside. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.
“I’m pleased with the other guys. It gives us an opportunity to look at some of those guys down the roster,” Bevell said. “Whether John Sullivan sits out for a snap and we get to look at Jon Cooper for a day or Steve Hutchinson sits out and we get to look at Chris DeGeare for a day. Those things are okay at times, but when we get further into this thing, we would like to have all those pieces out there.”
It might seem like a lot of key Vikings are missing practice time, but Childress said it’s “not even close” to as many as he’s seen sitting out, even when it comes to the caliber of talent sidelined.
“I’ve seen them in droves in Philadelphia. Just from what I’ve read, there’s more droves there (this year),” he said. “It’s just the way it goes. There’s nags and they’re all working their tails off to get back.”
LITTLE FAVRE TALK
Despite all the commotion caused for a few hours Tuesday over the possibility of Brett Favre retiring, it certainly didn’t seem to send a panic through the offensive coaching staff. In fact, Childress and Bevell didn’t even talk to Favre on Tuesday or through the time practice ended Wednesday afternoon.
In fact, Childress joked about how much the speculation affected him.
“I was just in the fetal position (Tuesday),” he said. “They had to come and get me so I could come out for the afternoon practice.”
THURSDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE NOTES
The Vikings held their first special-teams-only practice of camp Wednesday afternoon and it lasted only about an hour. Taye Biddle, Marcus Sherels, Lito Sheppard, Asher Allen and Jaymar Johnson all worked on punt returns. Darius Reynaud, Johnson, Ray Small and Albert Young worked on kick returns.
Reynaud was taken off the field on a cart after suffering a left leg injury.
Childress said Sidney Rice is “probably a ways away yet” from coming off the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list.
WR Percy Harvin remains out of town after the death of a family member.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.