Where Felton goes, a superstar follows

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 11, 2012 - 12:08 PM

The Vikings fullback has been leading the charge on many of Adrian Peterson's dramatic, crowd-pleasing runs this season.

In many ways, Jerome Felton has had the worst view of anyone to soak in the escalating brilliance of Adrian Peterson.

Much of the time, Felton has had his back turned, a few steps ahead of the Vikings star with no way to monitor Peterson's quick cuts and nasty stiff arms.

But that's what they created video for, right? So guys like Felton can not only assess their personal performance but marvel at their teammates' feats.

And so 13 games into what may be a historical season, Felton eagerly offers a fullback's perspective on Peterson's dominance.

"The thing about it," Felton said Monday, "is those first four or five games he probably wasn't what he is now. He was still getting his strength and explosion and comfort back. You just think, if you replace those games with what he's doing now, it's not even close.

"We're talking about the all-time [rushing] record."

Yep, the talk of Peterson chasing a 2,000-yard season continues to take on a realistic tone. With three games left, Peterson is 400 yards shy of that milestone.

"I feel like it will happen," Peterson vowed after Sunday's win over Chicago.

But he'll need help to get there. And a chunk of the aid this season has come from Felton, whom the Vikings signed last March.

During previous stops in Detroit, Carolina and Indianapolis, Felton never worked into a major role.

"It's all about the timing of the situation, being in the right place at the right time," he said. "I feel like this is the right place."

In fact, when the Vikings delivered their pitch last spring -- they signed Felton to a one-year, $700,000 deal -- a big part of the fullback's urge to get to Minnesota was to join forces with Peterson.

While with the Lions from 2008-10, Felton always kept an eye on the Peterson-propelled Vikings offense.

"I'd be like, 'Man, if I could ever team up with him, I think it could be something special,' " Felton said.

Now Felton is witnessing the league's premier back having his most special season.

Sure Peterson has gone on record saying he prefers to operate out of a one-man backfield. But it's no coincidence that of his six longest runs this season, all 48 yards or longer, five have come with a fullback.

That's why Vikings coach Leslie Frazier stamps Felton as "an unsung hero."

"We're playing a lot more two-back than we played a season ago," Frazier said. "And it's really helped us. We went into this offseason saying that wanted to find a fullback to really be a lead blocker for Adrian. Because we felt like some of his best runs he had a lead blocker."

Turned out to be a shrewd theory.

Remember that 64-yard touchdown run Peterson had in the third quarter against Tampa Bay? That came with the Bucs crowding the box with eight defenders and the Vikings turning Felton loose ahead of Peterson.

The fullback first knifed behind guard Geoff Schwartz, then swallowed up linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster with one block. In a blink, Peterson was free.

Two weeks later, Peterson's game-sealing 61-yard TD against Detroit came on a similar play against another crowded box. Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson delivered solid blocks up front. Then, Felton fired to the second level to take out safety Erik Coleman.

Peterson was never touched.

"[Adrian] has become a much more patient runner with a guy in front of him than he had been in the past," Frazier said.

Peterson's career long run, that impressive 82-yard score at Lambeau Field two weeks ago, also included a key Felton block on A.J. Hawk. That was followed by a flurry of broken tackles and Peterson's breathtaking sprint to the end zone.

"He's going to be a great back regardless," Felton said. "But all I'm trying to do is make life a little bit easier on him."

To be clear, the Vikings' offensive line deserves its share of praise for the continued running success. And even with ordinary blocking, Peterson is Peterson because of his ability to both shed tacklers and burst away from them.

"Genetically, he's just different than most people," Felton said. "I've been around great players like Calvin Johnson, who I think is the best receiver in the NFL. [Adrian's] that type of guy. They're just made different."

That said, Felton is glad to play a significant role in Peterson's success -- even if his view is often obstructed.

"He gives me an opportunity to show what I can do to the league," Felton said. "And hopefully vice-versa, I make life a little easier on him."

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