With the clock counting down to Friday’s preseason opener, there is a lot of speculation as to how playing time will be divvied up among the players.
Will Matt Cassel play more than just the perfunctory first series that most starting quarterbacks see in their opening game? Will Teddy Bridgewater play most of the first half? How long will Anthony Barr see action?
Those are legitimate questions. What may be the recurring question this preseason is this: Where is Adrian Peterson?
The answer to that may well lie with Norv Turner and his personal history. Turner had a wary respect for Peterson long before he arrived in Minnesota. When A.P. was a rookie in 2007, Turner was coaching the man who was considered the top running back in the league – LaDainian Tomlinson. Less than two months into his NFL career, Peterson forcibly took the baton and ran with the designation of being the top running back in the league – a title he hasn’t relinquished since.
When Turner was in charge of calling the shots in San Diego, one of his consistent practices was to shut down L.T. in the preseason and not allow him to have any carries. The rationale was simple – why risk anything happening to the prize possession of the franchise in games that don’t count against your win-loss record? For years, Tomlinson was kept out of preseason games to make sure that every time he carried the ball, it mattered.
Why should anything be different with the Vikings? Peterson doesn’t have anything to prove in the preseason. Clearly, he’s made the team. Why risk potential injury when it’s unnecessary? Considering that Turner was able to personally bear witness to the changing of the guard of running back dominance in 2007 from Tomlinson to Peterson, when Peterson ran for 296 yards against the Chargers, it makes sense that Peterson will have limited carries at best and more likely will have none in the preseason.
Casual fans may not remember Nov. 4, 2007. But, it was date that will live in infamy and Turner was on the opposite sideline at the Metrodome when history happened.
On that date, Peterson, who had been turning heads for two months as the Vikings’ prized rookie acquisition, was going to go head to head with the player acknowledged as the best in the business at his position in Tomlinson. The result? Peterson set a single-game NFL record for rushing yards against Turner and the Chargers.
From that point on, Turner had a respect for what Peterson could accomplish. Now that he’s coaching him, there’s no reason to think he won’t take the same path he took with Tomlinson when it comes to games that don’t matter in the record books. Nobody remembers years after the fact what a team’s preseason record is. Going 4-0 is no guarantee of success. Going 0-4 is no guarantee of failure.
As the Vikings officially start their 2014 season against the Raiders, those expecting to see No. 28 doing his thing may be surprised by his lack of activity in the preseason. But that may well be part of Turner’s master plan. For years, Tomlinson never saw the light of day in the preseason, but had some of the biggest seasons of his career once Turner unleashed him in the regular season. Why should anything be different with Peterson? He may see a few passes thrown his way, but don’t expect many, if any, carries.
There are plenty of decisions the coaching staff will have to make in the preseason as to who wins starting positions and who locks down roster spots. But one thing that doesn’t have to be questioned is that Peterson will be the centerpiece of the offense starting in September. As a result, don’t be shocked if he gets all of August off.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Turner’s history suggests slow August for AP
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