Peterson catching on in receiving game

Adrian Peterson hasn’t always been the smoothest receiver, but he had a good day catching the ball Saturday, showing some of his potential in the passing game in Norv Turner’s system.

Adrian Peterson entered training camp with no expectations of being protected from doing too much work or getting hit, but Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Peterson will be protected from contact when the team puts on full pads for the first time Sunday.

Peterson’s second day of training camp, however, proved that he might be hard to catch after he makes the catch.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has talked repeatedly about trying to get Peterson the ball in space more often, and that was evident at Saturday’s practice.

“He looked pretty good today, didn’t he?” Zimmer said after Saturday’s practice.

Yes, he did.

Peterson caught every one of the numerous passes headed his way during the full-team portion of Saturday’s practice, an encouraging sign for a running back whose offensive touches have been more than 90 percent running ball.

“We’re doing a lot of things now, and some of the things he does really well and some of the things he doesn’t do as well,” Turner said. “That’s a coach’s job, to find out the things he does best and let him do those things. We’re going to try to not ask him to do things he’s not comfortable with. But there’s enough things he does well as a receiver that I feel like he’s going to make big plays in the passing game.

“And that’s the two things the backs do, they get into position to make big plays and then they give the quarterback an outlet when he’s getting pressure. I believe that Adrian will certainly be able to do that. He’s an outstanding pass protector when you keep him in his element. We don’t want him blocking defensive ends. We don’t want him blocking 280-pound outside linebackers. When he’s blocking the people he should be blocking, he’s very good in pass protection.”

He’s even better with the ball in his hands, which it was plenty Saturday. And it was clear he remains a fan favorite.

During a few sessions in which he caught short passes and weaved his way through two-hand touches from defenders, fans cheered even if would have been brought down in a full-tackling session. His speed continues to impress those attending, even if he is less than eight months away from turning 30.

“They want to be great; they want everyone around them to be great,” Turner said when asked about Peterson and referenced several of the veteran playmakers. “That’s the starting point and their expectation level is so high in terms of wanting to go have success. I think that’s the thing that he and I have talked about most, is we’re going to do everything we can to put him in a position to have success. He’s still going to be in situations like he does where he runs over a guy or make a guy miss.”

Peterson reported to camp on Thursday and admitted he wasn’t very excited to start his eighth training camp until he reached Mankato. He said that’s usually when he starts getting butterflies.

Despite predictions from many in the media of a fourth-place finish in the NFC North this year, Peterson said the new coaching staff is “ahead of the curve” and believes success can be had in 2014.

If he can become even more of a threat in the passing game, it would keep defenses on edge. Zimmer even remembered the first catch of Peterson’s career, a 60-yard touchdown that started with a seemingly harmless swing pass during Zimmer’s only year as defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.

“He runs good routes; he catches the ball well. He caught a lot out here today,” Zimmer said. “There’s times when he’ll double-catch it a little bit, but most of the time he’s pretty darn good. And people are afraid of his speed, which gives him some areas to beat people underneath or beat people to the perimeter. I think he’ll be a good weapon. … Once he gets the ball in his hands and if he’s in the open field, it’s bad news (for defenses).”

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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