Adrian Peterson has always been described as a “violent runner,” but the tables have turned somewhat on him.
The Minnesota Vikings running back is still fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, with the top two rushers this year having one more game than him so far, but the 120 carries over six games are taking their toll.
He agreed that he has been taking on more contact early in games.
“That’s the reality of it. I’m built for it. I’ve been taking a lot of hits this season, but this last game it was a couple of solid hits that resonated,” Peterson said. “It’s just all part of taking care of the body, let the body rest up.”
Peterson didn’t practice on Wednesday, listed with ankle, hip and finger injuries.
“It’s part of the business. Your body gets beat up and you need days like yesterday to kind of relax and recover and let your body rejuvenate, let it rest,” he said.
While Peterson has been one of the most-used running backs this season, there is one stat he leads in and it’s not something he wants to be known for: stuffs, a measure of negative-yard carries. According to STATS, Peterson has been stuffed a league-leading 22 times.
Peterson said he needs to keep his feet moving to avoid negative runs.
“That’s something that when I look back on these past couple week I’ve seen myself stop my feet a lot. That’s not something that I normally do,” he said. “I know just keeping my feet moving and just launching forward whenever it’s a play that I know it might turn out to be a loss – just take what I can, make sure I keep my feet moving.”
The Vikings’ last two opponents, the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, have each sent a heavy amount of run blitzes designed to limit Peterson. It’s a calculated risk, as head coach Mike Zimmer pointed out.
While Peterson has largely been limited in those two games, he has also rattled off runs of 75 and 23 yards in those games, totaling 60 yards against the Chiefs and 98 yards against the Lions on Sunday.
“It changes things having the extra guy, especially when the guy might be coming free. Sometimes you have to be more patient. Sometimes you have to speed it up a little bit. The main thing is you have to remain calm,” he said.
Zimmer has told Peterson that big runs will come if defenses are gambling to stop the run. If he breaks through the initial wall of defensive linemen and linebackers, there are fewer defenders left to chase him down.
Receiver Mike Wallace said the concentration on Peterson has dictated different coverages that the passing offense is seeing.
“The guy we have running the football is the guy that really dictates the coverage more so than our wide receivers,” Wallace said.
But the guy running the football an average of 20 times a game is also the 30-year-old guy that is starting to feel the compilation of hits he is taking and that could be why he isn’t initiating contact and plowing forward as often.
“It’s not that big of a deal, but when you get hit in the side and you’re bruised and feel it for a week, you remember, ‘OK, I stopped my feet on this play so make sure not to do that again,’ Peterson said. “It’s just one of those things to be more conscious of.”