Adrian Peterson has completed offseason workouts, collected a $250,000 bonus for attending OTAs and is due a $12.75 million salary this fall, and now there is no question that all of the doubters who questioned whether the 2012 NFL MVP would be in a Vikings uniform this season have been proven wrong.
I’m going to pat myself on the back and say I was in the vast minority who thought there was a chance of Peterson being with the Vikings again for his ninth season, when he will have another chance to win a league rushing title and maybe even another MVP award. Not to mention this might be one of the better teams the Vikings will have put on the field since he was drafted seventh overall in 2007.
In the 71 years I have been in this business, I have never seen so much media coverage in print and on the Internet, with all sorts of speculation about what the future would hold for Peterson. People had him not reporting to camp, retiring or being traded. But there was never any question in my mind that he would be back.
If Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman would talk about it, he would tell you that any time they got a call regarding Peterson’s availability, the owners of the team, Zygi and Mark Wilf, along with Spielman, were determined to bring Peterson back and wait it out under all circumstances.
It finally got to a point where coach Mike Zimmer made it clear what Peterson’s status was when he said last month: “Adrian, he’s really got two choices. He can either play for us or he cannot play. He’s not going to play for anybody else. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
No doubt Peterson’s wife was concerned regarding what kind of treatment Peterson would receive from Minnesota fans after his legal problems from hitting his 4-year-old son. I don’t question that Peterson would have preferred to play in Dallas, closer to home.
But the Wilfs, Spielman and Zimmer were determined to hold fast to the end because they knew with Peterson they could have a contending football team, after they went 7-9 last year when he played only one game.
Will be productive
As has been reported in the Star Tribune, only 46 times in NFL history has a running back in his 30s rushed for 1,000 yards, according to Pro-Football-Reference. But Peterson still has his sights on Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record of 18,355 yards. At 10,190 yards, Peterson needs 8,166 yards to break the record.
As for the Vikings offense for 2015, offensive coordinator Norv Turner has a reputation of throwing the ball to his running backs, and you will see more of that this season than you have seen in previous years with Peterson.
When Peterson was asked if he expects to be more involved in the passing game, he said: “It’s funny because I get asked that question every year, be more involved in the passing game. But yeah I was looking forward to it last year. With this offense, the running back is going to be in position to be able to definitely rack up his receptions and I’m looking forward to doing that. This offense, like I said, presents it, and we will see a lot more of it in training camp and when the season starts.”
Turner’s goal might be for Peterson to match the pass-catching of DeMarco Murray, who with Dallas last year led the NFL in rushing last year but also had 57 receptions for 416 yards. The most receptions Peterson has ever had is 43 in 2009 for 436 yards, with Brett Favre as quarterback, and even though his first career touchdown came on a 60-yard catch, he only has five receiving TDs in his career.
Peterson will also get his first chance to play with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who talked about how that might help the offense this season.
“He’s a pro, and he’s a great guy and a great mentor, also,” Bridgewater said. “You know, watching him come into work every day and watching how he carries himself makes everything a lot easier.”
There is no doubt that Zimmer and Peterson have become a lot closer than they were last year when Zimmer was first hired. Peterson talked to the media about what he has seen from his coach.
“I’ve seen a little difference,” he said. “He’s a little more open. He always seemed to have a sense of humor to me, the short time I was around him last year, but even more so [this season]. I see him walk around talking with guys, see a smile on his face from time to time. Normally he just has that serious face. That’s good. Guys feel comfortable around him, but still with that, you see the guys respect him. It’s nothing that’s being done disrespectful. They know what level to go to.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Turner, who has a reputation of getting the most out of great running backs such as Smith, Ricky Williams, Frank Gore and LaDainian Tomlinson, will get as much or more out of Peterson than he did the previous backs he coached and the Vikings will have a great season because of it.
• The Twins have invested $15 million since 2013 in righthander Mike Pelfrey, who after two poor seasons is healthy and 5-3 with an impressive 2.97 ERA this year. But the 31-year-old will be a free agent after the season and figures to draw a lot of interest if he continues pitching the way he has.
• It was amazing to see the number of fans in red shirts rooting for their St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday and Thursday at Target Field. There were sections where the Cardinals fans outnumbered the Twins fans.
• Glen Perkins began Saturday with a 1.53 ERA, 26 strikeouts and only four walks in 29⅓ innings this season and had an MLB-leading 23 saves, without blowing one. Through those same 29⅓ innings last season, the All-Star closer had a 2.76 ERA with 39 strikeouts and five walks, but he had just 17 saves to show for it as the Twins were 32-39.
• The 2014 Twins enjoyed a surprising April performance from Chris Colabello, when he hit .295 with three homers and a team-record 27 RBI. But the journeyman eventually went back to Class AAA Rochester and was selected off waivers by the Blue Jays last December. Now the 31-year-old is doing it again, hitting .344 with five home runs, 24 RBI and 28 runs scored in 42 games, including a tiebreaking two-run homer off Perkins to hand the Twins a 6-4 loss May 29.
• In preparing for Thursday’s NBA draft, Wolves coach Flip Saunders said: “We’ve had about 12 players in for the draft. We’ll probably have about another 19 guys coming in this week prior to the draft. We’re going through the process of evaluating players. We’ve gone out on the road and I’ve seen players in their arenas and talked to them, had meetings and watched them work out. So we’re going through the process.”