The Vikings will put the pads on at training camp for the first time Monday, continuing a lengthy stay in Mankato that they hope can propel another run to the playoffs. The linchpin for this season’s success: running back Adrian Peterson, who has vowed to better the 2,000-yard MVP season he delivered a year ago. Vikings beat writer Dan Wiederer sat down for a 1-on-1 interview with Peterson. Here are excerpts from that discussion:
Q: So 2,500 yards. How many times have people brought that number up to you in the last six months?
A: Too many. A thousand times.
Q: My sense from you is that people are getting fixated on the number itself and missing the crux of things and what that goal really means to you. Fair?
A: Completely. I set that goal because I’m always looking to improve and to challenge myself in a lot of different ways. So for me 2,500 is a new challenge. For me. Listen, if I don’t hear that number mentioned to me again, I’ll be all good. It’s like this. People hear that 2,500 and it’s “Oh wow. That’s not possible. What was he thinking?” They kind of focus on it too much. In my mind, I’m not looking at it like that at all.
Q: You talked Friday about the suspicions that are out there about you and human growth hormone and performance-enhancing drugs. Where have you personally picked up on those suspicions — fans, other players, where?
A: A lot of it’s on Twitter. And of course I’ve heard it on the field. One of the players from Detroit came up to me and said something funny. He didn’t say HGH specifically but he was like, “Man, whatever you’re on, let me know. I want to take some of that.” You hear all sorts of speculation. … But for me, I’ve always approached that and looked at that and it gives me a pump. To me, it makes me feel good to know that people think I perform to a level where it was so spectacular that they think I was taking HGH. I say to myself, “Wow! God has really blessed me with the talent and intangibles to perform at that level.” I don’t take it as an insult, I take it as a compliment.
Q: You have said that you understand the temptation and pressure for guys in this league to take HGH and other things. What is that dynamic and that temptation?
A: Not everybody can get by on natural ability. Not everybody is willing to put in the hard work. And there are a lot of guys who put in so much hard work and still don’t have that athletic ability to push them over that edge to keep them playing this game for a long time. So they’re always trying to find that supplement that can help them reach that next level. Look, I don’t know anything about HGH, ’roids, none of that. Because I have no use for it. But of course, in this world we’re living in, you hear about it. You know it’s being used. And taking HGH hasn’t been tested in the NFL. So I’m not stupid. I’m not blind to the fact that guys are using it. I can only control what I can control. And that’s me busting my butt and going out there and playing against those guys that are juiced up and still doing them in.
Q: For what you did to the timetable of ACL recovery, is that a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of the world?
A: I think it’s a good thing and a bad thing. Because you have a lot of guys who just don’t have that same mind-set, who aren’t going to work as hard as I did. So when they don’t come back around the time I did or a month or two after, they’re looked down upon. But on the positive side, it gives people something to shoot for. I get tweets every day from people telling me that ‘Hey, I’m going to overcome my injury or my illness. Cancer. Different diseases. I can beat it because Adrian Peterson showed me the determination and the willpower to be able to prosper and get through adversity whenever it comes.’
Q: From afar, have you followed Robert Griffin III’s recovery from his knee injury?
A: A little bit. I’ve turned to ESPN, the NFL Network to kind of see how things are going for him and whatnot. And I wish him the best.
Q: You seemed impressed with him when you guys played the Redskins last year. What was your initial impression?
A: I have a good feel for people. He’s a good-spirited guy. You could tell. Just good-spirited, man. You combine that with athletic ability and being humble, you have a special person right there. And then that ambition. You see that with how he plays. If you apply all that to rehab, he’ll come back no problem.
Q: The day Percy Harvin was traded away, you let it be known on Twitter that you weren’t happy at all with that. Can you explain that initial reaction?
A: To me, this is how I look at it. I don’t care what’s going on. I am not trading Percy Harvin. If anything, if he’s going to hold out, it’s this: “You’re going to sit right here and you’re just not going to play. I’m not going to trade you.” That’s me. That’s me. So I was upset. This is a guy that you’ve seen what he’s got. Best player I’ve played with. His athletic ability as a whole — fast, quick, elusive, strong as an ox. And it’s all compact in a little body. To me, he was a good guy. We all have our different ways, our personalities. And sometimes they don’t click with certain individuals. … But to me, his was a situation that went overboard and it didn’t really have to go there.
Q: Does that 2009 season and that NFC championship loss to the Saints still stick with you?
A: It does. That turnover at the goal line, man. I’ll take that one. I’ll take it. It was critical. … That would have put us up [21-14]. Man. Man. … So I’ll never be like, ‘Oh, [Brett] Favre threw that interception that cost us the game.’ I don’t say that. Because we as a team, especially offensively, we gave that one away. And it [stinks] so much. Because we should have beat the [tar] out of them. We should have. We should have shattered New Orleans that day. If you want to look at it on paper, you’d be like, “God! Dog! This game wasn’t close. How much did Minnesota win by?” Well, they lost.
Q: Do you have the appreciation for how close you were to the Super Bowl and how hard it is to get back?
A: It’s funny. I was talking the other day about it. Man, that feeling. Being down there in New Orleans, getting ready for that game, one game away from the Super Bowl. It can’t be described, man. You have to be in that moment and experience it. And it feels like it’s been so long. I’m desperate, man. I’m desperate to get back there.