Perhaps nobody has taken the Vikings' 0-4 start harder than Adrian Peterson. As part of being a team leader of the offense, he is expected to speak on behalf of the team – that same role on defense has prompted Jared Allen to compare his mass interview time to taking a beating, being the target in a shooting gallery and being chum for sharks.
Peterson summed up the mood of the team, remaining upbeat and still looking at the flickering flame of a playoff run with the mindset that, as long as the candle remains lit, there's still a chance. But he is finding it more difficult to try to explain the recidivism of the Vikings' 2011 season. A month into the season, not only are the Vikings losing, they seem to be finding a recurring pattern: get ahead and then watch the lead slowly, but surely slip away. Week after week.
"We're kind of tired of saying the same thing," Peterson said.
Peterson had the first losing season of his life – or at least the last decade – in 2010. For someone who hates losing, he spent much of his offseason trying to erase the sour memory of what happened to the Vikings last year. He has become somewhat philosophical about the current trend of believing the Vikings were the better team and proving it in the first half, only to collapse like the Metrodome roof in the second half. He has turned to his faith to find a balance to keep the thoughts of negativity from slipping in.
Asked if he finds it difficult, given his hatred of losing at anything, Peterson said he's breaking new ground and the emotions are new.
"To be honest with you, it's not hard, but it's not easy. I've never been 0-4 – Little League, middle school, high school. I've never been that, been 0-4. It's a challenge, but it's just an everyday challenge [you have in] life. You've always got negative thoughts going through your mind, but you've got to be strong enough to block it.
"The devil is always at work trying to throw those darts. You've got to do a good job of dodging those things, casting them out and keeping your mind on the task at hand. I feel that's what I've been doing – I've been dodging, bobbing-and-weaving – but ultimately, I've been able to stay focused and keep the goal in mind and the things I want to accomplish and the things I want to do as far as doing my part to help this team win."
The frustration over losing has changed Peterson's focus to trying to get a winning streak to counteract the losing streak. Other players have stated this week that the Vikings could turn things around and be 4-4 heading into the bye week (the Cardinals, Bears, Packers and Panthers may beg to differ), but Peterson said the team can't look over its shoulder and wonder what could have been when they blew double-digit leads three times in three games.
"We've been pretty close in every game, but it doesn't mean anything if you're losing and you're not able to finish it off," Peterson said. "The first quarter of the season is over and we're looking to be on track Sunday against a good football team. I feel if we just do our job and stay true to what we do, we can get that winning streak started."
Peterson said head coach Leslie Frazier has done a good job of keeping the team focused and viewing Sunday's game as a fresh start – the second quadrant of the 16-game schedule – and not spending any more time than needed looking backward, especially given how much they dislike what they see when they look backward.
"Starting off slow in this slump at 0-4, it's not going to help you going forward," Peterson said. "The best scenario, is ‘Hey, the first quarter is over.' We have a goal in mind that is still reachable, so just focus on getting started this Sunday."
It has been a soul-searching time for Peterson, but he insists the Vikings locker room is solid, united and firmly behind Frazier and the coaching staff. When it comes to dealing with his frustration, Peterson said he isn't going to point figures or have a public on-camera meltdown. That's not how he is wired. He will keep bobbing and weaving to push out negative thoughts and will keep what frustrations he currently has about being 0-4 for the first time in his football life to himself.
"I probably just internalize it," Peterson said. "I swallow it and take it for what it is. It's painful, but you've got to be mentally strong enough to know your goal is still in front of you. If this is what you're trying to accomplish, continue to think about it and talk about – we could have done this, we could have done that – it's not helping you in the process as far as you going forward."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Peterson dodging the devil's darts
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