Adrian Peterson’s long-awaited return to the field was a game to forget — a measly 31 yards rushing for the Minnesota Vikings in their dreadful season opener at San Francisco.
Refocusing on the next one is the familiar weekly message around the NFL, of course, but Peterson acknowledged having a hard time putting that 20-3 defeat by the 49ers in the past. Two days later, he was still wearing a frown, his forehead creased. Finally, “the reset button has been pressed,” Peterson said Thursday.
“I had those wrinkles all day yesterday. Just mad for no reason. Because we had moved on, but I just couldn’t move on that quickly,” Peterson said, before nudging the narrative forward: “I’m just looking to improve and be better this Sunday.”
When the Vikings host Detroit for their home debut at TCF Bank Stadium, the game will mark Peterson’s first in Minnesota since Dec. 1, 2013, a span of 658 days. He sat out the last two games at the Metrodome because of a sprained right foot and missed the team’s temporary move outside last year, while his child abuse case proceeded in court in Texas and the league office. Peterson didn’t play in any preseason games.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be exciting, fun, running out of that tunnel for the first time,” Peterson said.
With those first-game feelings both physical (neck soreness from hard hits) and mental (running plays and blitz pickups at full speed) are out of the way, Peterson ought to be able to better settle in this weekend. He carried the ball only 10 times against the 49ers, limited action dictated by several factors starting with the deficit the Vikings faced down the stretch.
Under offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings offense operates out of the shotgun or pistol formations most of the time. That’s been a challenge for Peterson and his handoff timing.
Whether watching Jerick McKinnon or Matt Asiata replace him for a series or adjusting to a new style, though, Peterson understands how he’s being used, even if he’d rather not spend that many snaps on the sideline.
“I have a lot of trust in Coach Turner and what he’s going to ask of us,” Peterson said.
The Vikings must face a Lions defense that has held 23 of the last 33 opponents, the most in the NFL during that span, under 100 yards rushing. The first game in that stretch was against the Vikings in the 2013 season opener, when Peterson took his first carry 78 yards for a touchdown but netted only 15 yards on his other 17 attempts that afternoon in Detroit.
“We’re going to do everything we can to let our best players make plays. We’re going to do everything to have balance in what we do,” Turner said. “Obviously, we want Adrian to be a big part of that.”