Just as you wouldn’t put a snowplow on a classic Corvette and run it out of season, the Vikings won’t play their 31-year-old future Hall of Fame running back in the preseason.
Adrian Peterson met with reporters Thursday and broke the news that really wasn’t news since the team’s $12 million running back hasn’t touched the ball in an exhibition game in five years or played in one in three years.
“It was something I really thought about [doing] but ultimately just decided against it,” said Peterson, who already has 2,759 career touches in the regular season and playoffs.
Early last season, when Peterson was struggling with carries out of the shotgun formation, coach Mike Zimmer questioned whether he erred in not playing Peterson in the preseason. Earlier this month, Zimmer said the decision for this preseason would be up to Peterson, who had expressed some interest in playing.
Friday, Peterson said the decision was made “collectively.” When U.S. Bank Stadium plays host to its first Vikings game of any kind on Sunday, Peterson will be in street clothes watching most of his fellow starters get their final preseason tune-up before the regular season starts at Tennessee on Sept. 11.
“Ultimately, [Zimmer] wasn’t going to force me to go out there and play,” Peterson said. “I’ve been doing it for a long time. He trusts me.”
Peterson laughed when a reporter suggested that no good could have possibly come from a running back of his stature taking unnecessary preseason hits.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “There is some good you can take away from it. Getting that first layer of contact out of the way against some reads at full speed. So there’s some good and some bad. So I just decided to wait until games count.”
With 11,675 career yards rushing, Peterson needs only 638 more to jump from 17th all-time to No. 9 ahead of Jim Brown. In other words, Peterson knows a thing or two about getting ready for a season without a preseason.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, make sure I stay in my playbook, take care of my body, make sure I’m getting my conditioning and I’ll be ready to play,” he said. “I think the 2012 season, I didn’t play in the preseason.”
No, he didn’t. And all he did was rush for 2,097 yards — second most in NFL history — and win the NFL MVP a season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The preseason could have offered a better peek at Peterson’s progress or lack thereof when it comes to running out of the shotgun formation. That, of course, is a story line to follow this season because that’s quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s preferred passing formation.
For now, we have only Peterson’s word when it comes to how well he’s adjusting to the shotgun formation.
“It’s been going well,” he said. “Just being more patient. That’s always been the main thing. I’ve been able, I feel, to conquer that so I’m real comfortable.
“I’m liking it. I was always against running out of the shotgun. But now that I’ve kind of switched and tweaked the way I approach it, things are working out good. I know it’s going to help us out in the long run.”
The offensive line was a distinct weakness a year ago. Despite leading the league in rushing, Peterson was hit behind the line of scrimmage far too often. When asked if that had something to do with Peterson’s struggles out of the shotgun, Zimmer pointed instead to a running style that was too aggressive for those particular running plays.
“It’s a little bit of his style,” Zimmer said. “His style is to get the ball and go fast, and sometimes in the gun, you have to be a little bit more patient. You have to be a little bit more rounded. You’ve got to get your shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. So, it’s some of that.
“He’s better behind the quarterback than he is in the gun, I would guess, but he has been working hard at it.”
But it’s now official. He won’t work on it against live action until the regular season. Naturally, fans hoping to see Peterson open up U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday are disappointed.
“I can definitely understand that,” Peterson said. “But I still have that opportunity on Sunday night [Sept. 18] against Green Bay. I’m looking forward to it.”