Adrian Peterson had a sore neck Sunday afternoon. A good kind of soreness, he noted, the type of general discomfort that told him he was officially back and in his element.
“I was actually kind of excited about it,” he said. “I know that the body is getting that … I don’t know what you call it. It felt good to pound the rock.”
Felt like old times. Back at home, cheered by Vikings fans, punishing a defense with his sledgehammer running style.
Over and over and over again.
“It was working [so] just stick to it,” he said. “Why not?”
Oddly rendered a bystander in the season opener, Peterson moved back to center stage in the Vikings offense in a 26-16 victory against the Detroit Lions in the home opener.
He carried the ball 29 times for 134 yards in his first game at TCF Bank Stadium and his first home game since his season-long exile.
His return was marked by emotion and imperfection. It was a strange homecoming.
His 192 total yards moved him into first place in team history for career yards (12,577), passing Cris Carter.
Peterson’s performance included a 49-yard reception — the third-longest of his career and his longest in six seasons — after a total whiff on a pass block.
He fumbled three times. He lost one. One was negated by a Lions penalty. He recovered the third.
He also had a touchdown overturned when replays showed he was down just shy of the goal line.
He heard fans chant “AP! AP! AP!” and shower him with a loud ovation as he was introduced before the game.
Peterson’s return to the Vikings has produced a string of benchmarks. First practice, first game, first carry.
Sunday represented another one. He thanked fans for their embrace.
“That warm welcome, it felt good to be back home,” he said.
The same sentiment applies to his role in the offense. Peterson’s lack of involvement ranked at the top of perplexing developments in the Vikings’ no-show performance at San Francisco in the opener.
He didn’t touch the ball on the opening series and received only four carries in the first half. The oversight would have been more palatable if his last name was Asiata. That game plan hopefully landed in File 13.
Norv Turner wrote a different script Sunday. The first three plays were handoffs to Peterson, who got seven carries on the opening drive and 16 before halftime.
“I don’t know if that was exactly the game plan, but it was working,” Peterson said. “If it’s working, don’t stop.”
The Vikings have options with Peterson again. They can run, run, run. Or if a team sells out to limit him, Teddy Bridgewater can take the leading role.
The Vikings needed only 18 pass attempts from Bridgewater to win Sunday.
“I finally got to see AD be AD,” wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “I don’t know how many yards he had, but he was killing it. Not one man could bring him down.”
Peterson’s own self-inflicted mistakes gave him more misery than anything. His fumbles were remindful of his early NFL years when he had a tendency to lose grip of the ball.
His second fumble — the one that got nullified — occurred when a helmet jarred the ball loose. That happens occasionally.
Peterson blamed himself for the other two, admitting he became too anxious straining for extra yards.
“Just poor ball security,” he said. “Those can cost you. They didn’t come back to bite us.”
Neither did his “block” on blitzing linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second quarter. Peterson looked like a matador in protecting Bridgewater, who managed to flip him a pass before being sacked.
Peterson sprinted 49 yards to Detroit’s 23, setting up a field goal.
“Terrible [block] for me,” he said. “It looked weak and pitiful, just to be honest. Heads up play by Teddy making something happen.”
Peterson lamented a few runs in which he lacked patience or made the wrong read. And the fumbles bothered him.
His homecoming wasn’t perfect, but it was effective. The offense had its identity again. Peterson was back in charge, a workhorse who kept leaning on the defense.
He enjoyed the soreness that came with it.