Adrian Peterson carried the ball only 23 times total in the Vikings’ past two games. If you don’t think he looked like himself, well, he agrees.
Peterson acknowledged Thursday that nagging hamstring tightness in his right leg has caused him to run hesitantly and without his usual full-bore fury. The 2012 NFL MVP officially was added to the injury list last week, but he said the tightness stemmed from a bruise he suffered about five weeks ago.
“The way that it came on wasn’t like a normal hamstring, like a tweak or anything like that,” he said. “It kind of gradually became sore, kind of climbed up from the bottom of my hamstring up to the middle. I didn’t really know what was wrong, but I’m feeling good now.”
Peterson alerted the Vikings coaching staff and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman last week that his leg was bothering him.
Peterson missed one practice and had limited participation in the others.
Peterson felt healthy enough to play against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, but he lacked his usual burst in attacking the defenses.
“I feel like it was definitely hurting a little bit,” Peterson said. “I feel like it was more in my mind. It’s strange to say that, but I think I was kind of holding myself back, not being able to stretch out and really run. I think I was kind of hindering myself. Now that I’m able to be more relaxed and got a clearer mind, I think I’ll be able to go out there and roll full-speed.”
Peterson rushed for 62 yards on only 10 carries against Carolina on Oct. 13. He managed only 28 yards on 13 carries at New York on Monday, but he doesn’t believe the coaching staff purposely diminished his workload because of his hamstring issues.
“I really didn’t say anything to those guys until like last week,” he said. “Just told them there’s tightness. It’s more so when I run, I was kind of hesitant to stretch out and really stretch the hamstring, thinking that I was going to pull [it]. So that’s how I kind of had it in my mind. But that had nothing to do with the coaches’ decisions.”
Peterson returned to practice Thursday after resting Wednesday. He said he doesn’t believe he needs to sit out a game to let his hamstring heal completely.
“I feel like I can keep playing through it,” he said. “I’ll be OK.”
The Vikings running game has been virtually nonexistent since the team returned from its lone victory, against Pittsburgh in London on Sept. 29. The Vikings have tumbled to 19th in the league in rushing offense; Peterson ranks seventh individually in rushing yards (511).
The offense hit a new low in Monday’s 23-7 loss to the Giants when Peterson carried the ball only 13 times while Josh Freeman attempted 53 passes, despite having only four practices with the first-team offense.
“It got out of whack there,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “When we were down 23-7, I think that’s when we called 30 of them. It’s definitely not the plan [to pass that much], and it’s tough when games go like that.”
Peterson noted Monday night that the offense needs to become more physical running the ball. On Thursday, Peterson said he was referring to the entire offense, not strictly his offensive line.
In order to get on track this week, the Vikings must do so Sunday night against one of the stingiest rushing defenses in the league. The Packers rank No. 3 in rushing defense and are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t given up 110 yards rushing in a game this season.
Peterson has rushed for 1,541 yards in 13 career games against the Packers, the fourth-most yards against Green Bay in its franchise history.
“One thing that we’re going to do and get back to focusing on is establishing the run,” he said. “Getting those guys up front working and sweating and then be able to become more balanced.”
That means Peterson likely will resume his normal workload. He didn’t hesitate when asked for his ideal number of carries in a game.
“One hundred,” he said.