Focus, but not too much, on Peterson

That is the challenge awaiting the defense for the opener tonight against Minnesota.

Not surprisingly, Adrian Peterson will be the focus of the Packers' defense. Ryan Pickett, however, says he and his defensive teammates haven't spent the days leading to tonight's opening showdown obsessing about the second-year phenom.

"We don't sit there in the meetings and talk about Peterson all day," said the mammoth defensive tackle, who will be a key to the Packers' chances of stopping Peterson. "We hardly even mention his name. He's a good back, but he's not really our focus. All the questions we get about Peterson come from you guys. The coaches and players, we're hardly concerned about it. He's a great running back we're playing, but if we go out there and do our thing, we shouldn't have anything to worry about."

Peterson is perhaps the NFL's most explosive running back. He led the NFC in rushing with 1,341 yards despite missing more than two games with a knee injury sustained at Green Bay last season. The NFL's rookie of the year rushed for a league-record 296 yards against a strong Chargers defense.

"Well, the numbers speak for themselves. I don't know that I need to throw another adjective after it," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "As a rookie running back, it was extraordinary what he was able to accomplish in not full-time play. Obviously, the challenge is to be able to show it wasn't a fluke and the standard you're going to put out there every time."

Linebacker Brady Poppinga acknowledged a challenge will be to not keep too many eyes on Peterson and ignore the Vikings' other weapons, like quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and big-play receiver Bernard Berrian.

"Every offense has certain things they want to focus on more, emphasize more, but at the same time, you can't forget about everything else," Poppinga said. "We're not going to chase ghosts. We're going to go off what we've seen on film and our history with them. Basically, what's going to happen is, we're going to take what they're trying to do, and then from there, we're going to go to the next thing. What complements that? So, it's a progression of what you're focusing on. If you focus too much on one area, you're going to take away another area, and that potentially could harm you."

Safety Nick Collins, who played against Jackson at college, too, says he's seen some progress in the third-year pro who will either be the weak link that dooms the Vikings or the playmaker that helps push them over the top.

"This offseason, he worked hard," Collins said. "He's showing more poise in the pocket and trying to make throws instead of running. It's up to us to put pressure on him."

Poppinga noticed the same improvement from Jackson.

"I thought he's obviously improved since last year," Poppinga said. "Last year, he was a guy that just had a really short clock. After 1 or 2 seconds, he's looking to run. And he wasn't looking to run to pass. He was looking to run to run. This year, he's looking to run to pass. His clock is a little longer and he's getting more patient going through his progressions.

"We'll see how much he truly has improved based off of what his performance is on Monday night."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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