For years, Adrian Peterson has preached patience for himself to let blocks develop. Imagine how excited he will be to play on Monday Night Football after being out of football for more than a year because of his legal issues in 2014.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been trying to keep it inside to not get too excited. It’s hard,” he said Friday. “But I know from the past that when I go into a game and I’m too wired up, then you kind of forget about your principles when you’re out there. Being slower and letting things develop, I’m conscious of that, and when that first snap comes, whenever it is, first, second play, third play, second series, I don’t know, I’ll take a deep breath and be ready to roll.”
Peterson has been taking a lot of deep breaths lately after he waded through the legal minefield following a charge of child abuse in Texas last year, a count that eventually saw him plead no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault.
Since his return to the Vikings in May, the focus has returned to football. He hasn’t played since Week 1 of the 2014 season – Sept. 7, 2014 – and hasn’t stepped foot on the field at all during the 2015 preseason.
He’s been in the spotlight plenty before. But he’s never been out of the football spotlight for so long. Even when he suffered a season-ending tearing of his anterior cruciate ligament in December 2011, he was back playing in the 2012 season opener, the first game on his way to an NFL MVP performance and 2,097 yards.
Now he’s hoping a patched-together offensive line can open holes … and then get out of his way.
“I’m always pushing those guys to, ‘Hey, we need to go full speed because this is going to be what it is in the game, especially when I’m coming your way, I don’t want to run you over or find my facemask in your back. You’re not going to like that,’” Peterson said. “( T.J. Clemmings) understands that. I feel like as a group the guys are working to get better. We’ll see how things hold together on Monday night.”
The Vikings will be the last game of the NFL’s opening week, facing the San Francisco 49ers in the second game of a Monday Night Football double-header. They kick off at 9:20 p.m. Central time Monday night.
It’s the only game on at that time and Peterson will surely be a focal point of the broadcast. But he sees it as an ideal return to the field for him.
“It’s going to be exciting for me, first game back, and all the guys as well,” he said. “It’s a Monday night game, your first game of the season so everyone will be excited for it.”
Peterson will be front and center in the line of excitement, ready to carry the ball again and put the scrutiny of the past behind him.
He’s making no predictions about what will happen, but doesn’t shy away from his goal of having the best year for a running back in NFL history. Unprompted this time, he maintains his goal is a 2,500-yard season.
He isn’t sure how his body will recover after not taking the punishment of an NFL game in over a year.
But he’s trying his best to contain his excitement, knowing that getting too jacked up for a game doesn’t always work the best for him. He doesn’t want to miss a blocking assignment in his first game playing with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and he doesn’t want to leave any potential yards behind by being too quick to the line of scrimmage.
“You get out there and it’s a run play and you’re too anxious, too excited and you hit the hole too fast, and you’re beating the offensive line,” he said. “If he’s pulling, you’re beating him to the gap. So I would say that’s probably the only thing, as far as the running back position, that if you go in and you’re too wired up …”
That might be unavoidable for the first play, or first series. But he at least hopes to settle in quickly and find his rhythm – and his NFL normalcy – again.