Fullback Jerome Felton believes his bread and butter will be plenty for offensive coordinator Norv Turner to chew on.
Turner is expected to implement a more diverse offense for the Minnesota Vikings that gets playmakers in space. Felton believes his blocking ability will be a valued asset in the system.
“We want to be based on a power running scheme and be able to do things off that and be able to get in different formations and be able to get the defense off-balance,” Felton said. “I’m sure there will be a little more opportunity for me to catch some passes when I’m split out wide.
“He wants to run the football and he wants to power run an offense, and that’s what I do, so I’m sure I’ll be able to do some other things, too, but I think the base of what I do won’t change.”
Felton has teamed with tailback Adrian Peterson for the last two seasons in Minnesota and was an integral part of Peterson’s 2,097-yard season that came up just 8 yards shy of the NFL’s single-season record in 2012. That was Felton’s first year with the Vikings, but he is now in a new offensive system with a new head coach (Mike Zimmer), coordinator and running backs coach (Kirby Wilson).
In some ways, Felton will have to prove himself all over again.
“There’s a lot of different motions and shifts, and that’s a lot different than what I’ve been on in the past,” Felton said. “It’s definitely a complex offense. You know if you study, if you take the time to study and put in the work, it’s not something that you can’t learn. It’s definitely a little more complex.”
In two seasons with the Vikings, Felton has caught a combined 12 passes. In his first two seasons with the Detroit Lions, Felton had twice as many receptions (24), and he believes that shows he can be more versatile if asked.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, Jerome’s just a blocker,’ but if you look early in my career, I came in as a runner. I can do different things,” he said. “I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can pass block. So whatever is asked of me I think I’ll be able to do. I don’t consider anybody having a leg up or a leg down.
“There’s some stuff (in this offense) where I’m split out wide, come out of the backfield and things like that, but it’s not too different than what I’ve done in the past,” Felton said. “Everybody is thinking it’s going to be a wholesale change. I don’t think that’s what it is. I’m just coming into camp in great shape and doing whatever is asked of me.”
Felton said he got a little leaner in the offseason to improve on his flexibility. That might help if he is called upon to run more routes, especially if lined up out wide, but Turner knows where the strength of Felton lies.
“He is going to have to block and block. We talked the other night to our team, we need to have a physical presence,” Turner said. “Jerome brings that type of presence, and we are still going to have a certain percentage of two backs in the backfield, or spread out with the two backs in the backfield, that personnel group, if it gives the team problems, we will not be able to use it. I think that there’s game situations where you need to have a fullback that can go pound it a little bit.
Last year, Felton started the season with a three-game suspension, but he still played in almost 29 percent of the team’s offensive plays and another 12 percent on special teams.
Once Turner was hired, Felton started to investigate how much a fullback is used in Turner’s system. Between talking to friends that played for Turner in the past and his own study, he found the answer varies.
“He’s went from using one a lot to not very much,” Felton said. “I think that just depends on the system, the players, if he has a fullback and what that fullback can do. I’m confident with my ability and I feel like whenever we run two-back runs, we’ll be successful and that will help me get more reps. When I’m in there, I’m just trying to do the best I can and I feel like if I accomplish that it will give me more opportunities in the offense.”
Then there is the contract. He renegotiated his contract for the 2014 season, taking a $500,000 cut in base salary, but that can be earned back in incentives. His salary-cap number for 2014 went down only slightly, to $2.13 million.
“Obviously all that stuff factors into it, but at the end of the day you just control what you can control and that’s me performing when I’m out there so that’s what I focus on,” he said.
“I feel like if you’re good enough they’ll find a place for you, so that’s kind of the approach I’ve taken in my career and I’ll continue to take that.”
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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