The story of the week has been about the return of Adrian Peterson to the Minnesota Vikings and his being welcomed back into the fold. On Thursday, coaches and teammates gave their reaction to having their star running back returning.
One of the first things that stood out to teammates was the phenomenal shape that Peterson showed up in upon his return to Winter Park, reminding teammates how dominant he is capable of being.
“He looked great,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “It feels like he never lost a step. Like I was telling these guys earlier, it’s crazy how he came back in shape and he’s ready to roll. He’s going to be scary this year with our offense.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner echoed that sentiment, saying that Peterson came back to the Vikings ready to go and looking like he hasn’t skipped a beat in his preparation for the 2015 season.
“I’ve been around a lot of these guys a lot of years and he’s one of the top guys I’ve ever been around,” Turner said. “He comes out and he looks like he hasn’t missed a day. It was nice having him.”
While Peterson was sidelined with his personal issues, one of the players asked to fill the void was 2014 rookie Jerick McKinnon. Expected to be brought along slowly as a converted college option quarterback, without Peterson, McKinnon’s role in the offense was greatly expanded. With Peterson back, McKinnon’s role will likely be scaled back considerably, but he understands that when a team has a Hall of Fame-caliber player, you find ways to get him the ball.
Even if it means putting his own NFL career on the back burner for a while, McKinnon is mindful that the Vikings are a better team with Peterson than without him, even it comes at the expense of his own playing time. He may not see the same level of playing time, but it’s all part of the learning experience in the NFL.
“Last year, I got a lot of playing time earlier than I expected it,” McKinnon said. “From my standpoint, knowledge is key at this level. The physical aspect and all that is going to take care of itself. The greatest athletes are in the NFL, so for me it’s just to keep learning, keep growing and when that time comes, be ready.”
The primary beneficiaries of A.P.’s return has been Teddy Bridgewater and the passing game. For wide receiver Charles Johnson, who never played with Peterson before, having defenses crowding eight men in the box to try to shut down a weapon like A.P is going to create opportunities for the passing game to have big plays if they execute properly.
“I think it will open it up,” Johnson said. “There are times where we’re going to have to create our own space, and that’s what we work on as wide receivers is we’ve got to create our own openness. But having 28 in the backfield, a lot of teams are going to key on him and look to stop him because he is such a powerful and explosive back. He’s done great in this league for such a long time. Having him back there, I know if I was on defense and I was coaching defense, he’d be on my scouting report.”
It’s still a long way until the start of the regular season, but the feeling at Winter Park is as optimistic as it has been in some time because the Vikings know that they have their face of the franchise back and the intimidation factor that he brings with him will make a huge difference as the Vikings make a push for the playoffs in 2015. Without Peterson, the Vikings had an up and coming group of young players ready to make their imprint on the NFL. With the Peterson, that process gets sped up and the Vikings could well be one of the teams to watch in 2015.
“I’ve been around a lot of these guys a lot of years and he’s one of the top guys I’ve ever been around,” Turner said. “He comes out and he looks like he hasn’t missed a day.”
Teammates: Peterson ‘never lost a step’
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