The Vikings’ first week of Organized Team Activities continued Wednesday at Winter Park with 89 of the 90 players currently under contract in attendance. Star defensive end Jared Allen was the only player not around. Receiver Greg Jennings, center John Sullivan and receiver Chris Summers all sat out Wednesday’s work. Jennings suffered a very minor ankle tweak during practice Tuesday, Summers is dealing with a hamstring issue and Sullivan figures to be out of action through June as he recovers from offseason knee surgery.
But the most notable attendee Wednesday was the league MVP.
Adrian Peterson, coming off a career year followed by offseason surgery on a sports hernia injury, was back at work and exuding his usual enthusiasm. Following Wednesday’s practice, Peterson spoke to a group of reporters.
Here’s how that exchange went:
Adrian, last year at this time at these OTAs, you were off to the side running hills and rehabilitating and trying to show that your torn ACL was on its way back. What’s different this year now that you’re in a whole different state physically?
Just being able to be involved in OTAs and come out here and participate with the guys. Just that competition level feels good. It feels a lot better than last year.
Are you physically 100 percent again after the core muscle injury?
Yeah. I’m pretty much 100 percent. Ya know, me knowing my body I’d like to be a little stronger in some areas. But I’m feeling great.
At the tail end of last year, what was that feeling like as you were battling that pain through the month of December and into the playoffs?
It was a little wear and tear towards the end of the season. And as each game came along, I could kind of feel it getting a little worse. But mind over matter. Ya know? So I just continued to push and dealt with it.
That rehab. A lot easier than what you went through on the knee a year ago?
Oh yeah. Yeah. It was a cakewalk compared to recovering from the ACL and what I had to go through to bounce back from that.
Do you feel like there is really no other injury that could ever compare to the ACL where you then take any other setbacks in stride?
Yeah. You could say that. But I definitely earned a lot more respect for your abdominal muscles. Because they work so much of your body. And after that surgery, I was definitely able to feel each area that it affects. So yeah, I definitely got an appreciation for it.
How much have you been able to lift since February?
Right after the surgery, it took me maybe a month-and-a-half to really start lifting. Free weights. Getting in there on the bench. And when I started, I kind of started off light, trying to take away some of the pressure from the lower abdominal with having my legs on the bench and doing some different exercises. Trying to keep the weight off and focusing on that area.
Are you able to do the same amount of weight now as you were before?
Why is it important for you to be at OTAs?
Just the team chemistry. I come out here to be around Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil and all the new faces. Let these young guys see how we do it when we’re in here working. Hopefully they pick up from it.
Are you working as hard this offseason as you did last year? Because it seemed like a year ago, you sort of set a new standard forever?
Yeah. Yeah. For me last year was a true test for me. And it made me realize that I can be working even harder than I was previously. So yeah, I’ve been working extremely hard with that goal of coming back and being better than I was last year. That’s always my mindset. Finding ways to improve and coming back better than I was the year before.
Is this team better than it was last year?
Um, it’s early now. We’ve got a lot of new faces. I feel like we have the pieces in place to be better than last year. So time will tell.
How can you be better than last year?
Get to the playoffs, win our division and win a championship.
Everyone needs to come out and really understand what we’re trying to accomplish as a group. And as an individual, you have to make sure you’re preparing yourself through the offseason, the OTAs, to make sure you prepped to come in and play your part in ultimately accomplishing that goal. If everyone has that focus, that’s how you get better.
There’s an obvious push to revive the passing attack and get a little more balance in this offense. Does that scare you at all?
Does it scare me? Not at all. I’ve been around, what, this is my seventh year. I feel like I’ll get a couple carries. So I don’t think I’ll miss out.
Adrian, you’re still out there in practice making catches out of the backfield. Don’t you always want them to throw the ball your way a little bit more?
Yeah. A lot of people have this misconception that Adrian cannot catch the ball. And that’s so false. They’ve really never thrown it to the running backs [here]. But Favre believed in us more and he’s checking it down to us and getting the ball into our hand in the open field.
It’s only OTAs and we’re hearing a lot of talk about this team’s hunger. That’s obviously a good sign. But what does it mean to hear that from so many veterans?
Even more so, the guys who have been around for a long time, you can look at them and some guys might be kind of tired of it and going through the motion. But our guys are still hungry and still trying to accomplish the ultimate goal. That’s winning a championship. That’s what it’s all about.
There are a lot of new receivers out there. Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings. Your thoughts?
I’m excited to see what these guys can do, what they’re going to bring to this team. With Greg Jennings, they’ve got a great veteran guy that’s going to be able to teach them the ropes so they can learn fast. So I’m excited to see what they can do for us this season.
What’s your impression of Joe Webb moving to receiver?
I’ve seen him catch a couple passes and I’ve seen some of his route running. He’s doing pretty good to make that transition. But that’s what you call an ultimate team player – a guy who keeps his head up and switches position and is doing what’s best for this team and doing anything that can help this team win.
Anything different for you these past couple months, just being the MVP and having extra demands on your time and a little more spotlight?
Yeah. A little more spotlight. Last year, I pretty much didn’t have no endorsement deals come through. This year, it was a little different. Last year, some of those were my choice. … But this year the offseason has been a little busy.
What did you add to the mix this year endorsement-wise?
EpiPen. Of course, I had that allergic reaction [to jambalaya last training camp]. Castrol Edge. Signed back with Nike. So I’ve got some stuff going on right now. You will see me more. Stay tuned.
You don’t want to use that EpiPen again though, right?