In a Vikings season where just about everyone sees the glass as being more than half empty, Adrian Peterson remains an eternal optimist.
Despite a 2-8 record, Peterson remains convinced that the Vikings have a chance to run the table and put themselves back in the area of respectability in the NFC playoff race. While few others share that view, Peterson said it Thursday during the open locker room session and was serious about it.
"To be honest with you, in my eyes, I don't know how you all think, but I still think we've got a chance," Peterson said. "Call me crazy, but I still feel like we have an opportunity. That's the way I'm going to approach this week and the rest of the season."
The Vikings have already put themselves up against the wall, leaving their best possible winning percentage in 2013 being .500. Yet, Peterson is keeping hope alive.
"Not to look at the end of the tunnel but finishing 8-8, who knows what could happen?" Peterson said. "We have six more weeks. A lot of things can happen. We've just got to control things that we can control and that's trying to go down to Green Bay this week and get a win."
Peterson is currently struggling with a groin pull that has kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday this week, as well as Thursday and Friday last week. He has spent more time with head trainer Eric Sugarman than he has with his teammates. But his injury isn't one that will keep him out of Sunday's game at Green Bay. What might be a problem is that the projected game time temperature is expected to be under 20 degrees, which, for a player who needs to warm up to get his muscles working properly, isn't a good thing.
"With anyone, cold weather is going to impact you staying loose," Peterson said. "That's why you've got to have a game plan and be ready to execute when the time comes."
That game plan wasn't in place last Sunday at Seattle. With blustery conditions, Peterson knew early on that he wasn't going to have his typical explosion as he took handoffs and looked for a seam in the Seahawks defense.
"I realized when I got up (Sunday morning)," Peterson said. "I realized when I stepped on the field what it was (a problem). But, at the time, I was in a moment, so it was like, ‘Hey, do what you got to do now.' So that's what I did."
On the second play of the game, Peterson bounced a run outside and found a seam. On a normal play, Peterson would have been off to the races, but Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond came off his man and tracked down Peterson for a short gain. Had he been close to 100 percent would the result have been different?
"I'm out of there (for a long run) on that play," Peterson said. "It wasn't frustrating. It was just disappointing. The main thing was to be out there helping my team. I was out there putting my best foot forward. But there were a couple of plays where I was like, ‘Wow, if I had that explosion, it would be a different turnout.'"
Peterson reiterated that comparisons of the 2013 Vikings to the 2011 team that finished 3-13 aren't fair. He sees this year's Vikings team as being much closer to being successful than their record indicates and he has the full confidence in his teammates, who are practicing hard and playing hard in hopes of getting on the kind of season-changing roll that has vaulted Carolina into playoff contention and brought the Giants back from an 0-6 start to run off four straight wins. He sees the same sort of potential for the Vikings to get on a late-season roll to salvage something out of a disappointing year.
"The guys that are in this locker room, I believe in every guy in here and I believe in (quarterback) Christian (Ponder)," Peterson said. "I believe that he can turn it on and get into a run. I have faith in the guys in this locker room. When I look in these guys' eyes, when I'm on the field with them, they're playing their hearts out. They're out there competing. I don't see guys quitting. I probably wouldn't have that sense if I looked around the locker room or when we played and saw guys not out there competing or guys giving up. That's not what I see. So, with that, you still have a chance. I choose to focus on that opportunity and that chance that we have and believing in the guys in this locker room and really don't care what everyone else on the outside thinks about it.
"A lot of games we have lost at the end – the end of the game, the last minute, in the fourth quarter," Peterson added. "In all our games, we did things to put ourselves against the wall. So I think that has something to do with the mindset that we have, because guys realize that we gave a lot of games away. You don't want to do that, but it is what it is. So, with that, guys are still fighting. Guys are still practicing hard. Guys are still believing. That's something I sense that I didn't sense back then. We still have that now and that's all you can ask for being 2-8."
Whether Peterson's undying optimism can translate into a Vikings win Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers is up to debate. But one thing seems certain – Peterson will be on the field giving everything he can to help put the Vikings over the top and get a much-needed win that would serve the dual purpose of helping the Vikings and crippling Green Bay's playoff hopes.
Would Peterson consider taking a week off to help heal up and miss the game with the Packers? Fuggedaboutit.
"No, not at all," he said. "I don't think it's that severe. (I just need) rest and do the necessary things with treatment and I'll be OK."
If Sugarman or head coach Leslie Frazier came to him with the prospect of shutting down for a week to get healthier, Peterson would be just as adamant.
"I'd look at them (like they were) crazy," Peterson said. "I'd be like, ‘Well, I know my body and I'm not going to do anything to hurt myself. Just trust me.'"
While nobody anticipated the type of franchise implosion that has taken place in 2013 coming off a 10-6 playoff season, Peterson won't give up until the Vikings are mathematically eliminated from postseason contention and, from the sounds of things, not even then.
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 remains an eternal optimist
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