Adrian Peterson has been Minnesota's most irreplaceable player for years, piling up 2,097 yards rushing this season alone to put himself in the mix for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.
This unparalleled contribution to the Vikings and their success, however, hasn't been enough to satisfy Peterson. One of the sport's most relentless competitors, he would like to play on special teams, too.
"For the past two years, I've been trying to get in on field goal block. Come in off the edge, you know? It's just going to take one block for them to really be like, ‘OK, you know what? Let's take the chance and let you go out there and get it done,'" Peterson said. "Kickoff return, I wouldn't mind getting back there. I'm in it to win."
Peterson was only asked about this Wednesday because special teams coordinator Mike Priefer revealed Peterson's constant request to reporters a few minutes earlier.
"He always asks," Priefer said. "He's a football player. Gunner, field goal block, returner. The guy is awesome. I always say yes, and then I ask the head coach and he says no. I know what the answer is going to be. I don't even have to ask."
Peterson actually returned 16 kickoffs as a rookie in 2007, averaging 25.8 per attempt, including a 53-yard gain at Chicago, where he had his first 200-yard game that afternoon. The Vikings used him in that role once during the regular season in 2008 and again that year in the playoffs, but never since.
He's too valuable to risk injury on one of football's most dangerous plays, so approval from coach Leslie Frazier is unlikely. Even Percy Harvin, the team's primary kickoff returner until he sprained his left ankle in November, was given breaks from that role to keep him fresh and safe. But Peterson has that rare blend of speed, power and instinct that could pay off with a game-changing touchdown, should the Vikings ever decide to surprise their opponent.
Priefer said he has the play cards with him on the sideline in case a scenario arose that persuaded them to put Peterson in for a kick return.
"We would show him exactly where the return is supposed to hit and let him do his magic. There's absolutely an opportunity for him to go back there, I would think, in a crucial situation," Priefer said.
Peterson beamed at the podium Wednesday when the subject of special teams came up.
"I believe in having your best players on the field, especially in critical times. You never know what can happen," he said. "That's what I would do."
Even if Peterson never gets his chance as a kickoff returner, he's served the Vikings well with more than just running the ball. He served as a counselor of sorts for Christian Ponder, whose two interceptions deep in Packers territory cost the Vikings the game at Green Bay on Dec. 2. Seeing a look of defeat on the quarterback's face, Peterson approached his teammate and encouraged him to keep his spirits up, telling Ponder how much he's appreciated the passion he plays with.
"I just did what I felt I needed to do to help him get over that. Because this is the guy we're rolling with, and we need him to continue to improve each week," Peterson said, adding: "I feel like he got back on track, got his mind right, didn't let it dwell on too long."
Coming off a career-high 34 carries, and playing through some abdominal soreness, Peterson was also asked how his body is holding up, one year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
"My body feels great," he said, smiling. "I could play for 12 more games if I have to."
Peterson still lobbying for special teams
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