Trying to figure out how the fifth-year running back will fit in with the offense this weekend, let alone the rest of the season and beyond, would have to wait. Waived by the Cleveland Browns two days ago, Tate didn’t even have the opportunity to peek at the playbook before he had to put on his gear and head to the field.
“We’ve got iPads and stuff now,” Tate said, “so that’s good.”
The Vikings host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, and running back Matt Asiata has not yet passed the post-concussion protocol required before he can practice. Running back Jerick McKinnon was held out on Wednesday with a lower back injury, though he took part in a limited basis on Thursday. Adrian Peterson, of course, has been missing since mid-September and was suspended by the NFL this week for the remainder of the season.
With all of that, the Vikings were prompted to give Tate a try.
He was the featured ball carrier with the Browns earlier this year until being overtaken for playing time by rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Tate was also a productive player for the Houston Texans for four seasons when Arian Foster was hurt.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said this wasn’t a sign of lost trust in McKinnon to be the primary runner, though. The rookie has averaged 4.9 yards per attempt this year and 68.1 yards over the last seven games.
“We’re excited about Jerick and what he’s done, and I see him as our running back,” Turner said.
Tate’s turns were limited on Thursday, but coach Mike Zimmer said he didn’t see him make any mental mistakes.
“He’s got good acceleration. He’s a little bit more of a thumper,” Zimmer said.
Tate said he was “of course” surprised when the Browns let him go. Asked last week if he was satisfied with his role, Tate said, “I’d be lying if I said yeah.” When the subject came up in an interview with reporters on Thursday, Tate denied being disgruntled.
“That’s false. I never said that,” he said.
Tate signed a two-year contract as a free agent worth as much as $6.2 million. He sprained his right knee in the season opener and missed two games but returned from the bye week with a bang with a career-high 124 yards on 22 carries against the Tennessee Titans. The next game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tate had 78 yards and two touchdowns on 25 rushes.
But his use began to dwindle. He had only two attempts for minus-9 yards last week against the Texans, who drafted him in the second round out of Auburn in 2010.
So here’s his fresh start.
Worn out by the logistics of a sudden cross-country move while caring for two young children, Tate said this was too soon to consider whether the Vikings could be a longer-term option than just the next six weeks given Peterson’s foggy future with the team.
“Not much sleeping and not much eating right now,” Tate said.
For now, he was just focused on trying to pick up some pieces of a new offense.
“I think I can help out a great deal,” Tate said. “If I can come in and learn this playbook and play to my abilities I think I’ll be able to help them out quite a bit.”