Adrian Peterson’s goals: Versatility, ball security

Adrian Peterson earned his third NFL rushing title in 2015, but he’s hoping to change and refine his game in 2016.

This offseason, there is no legal battle looming over Adrian Peterson, no ongoing rift with the Minnesota Vikings or NFL. There are no offseason surgeries needed. He has his health and a full offseason to focus on his goals for next year – winning the NFC North again and playing in the Super Bowl in his offseason hometown of Houston.

To get there, Peterson has two things he personally wants to improve.

“The first thing that comes to mind is making sure that I put emphasis on protecting the ball. That’s going to be my number one objective going into this offseason,” he said. “Because you take things for granted – I’ve joked around and said, ‘Yeah, I done put the ball on the turf but how many have I lost it? There’s guys that have lost more fumbles than me this year.’ But when it comes back and it bites you in this type of way, it’s something I want to put an emphasis on for this offseason. So that’s going to be the main thing overall, just being a better player and a better fit for this offense, as well. So there’s a lot of things that I’ll be able to look back on and improve on during the offseason.”

Peterson fumbled twice in their 2009 NFC Championship game loss, but the Vikings recovered both of those. He fumbled on Sunday in the wild card loss to the Seattle Seahawks and it led to Seattle kicking what would eventually become the game-winning field goal in a 10-9 Vikings loss.

Peterson carried the ball more than any other running back this season and he also fumbled more than anyone else. He fumbled eight times in the regular season, losing three of them, and two of those lost fumbles came in Vikings losses – at home against the Green Bay Packers and at Arizona, the second of those leading to a touchdown. His ninth fumble in the postseason hurt the most.

But Peterson also wants to be more involved in the offense after seeing how often backups Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata were involved on third downs, when Peterson would often be sent to the sideline.

He believes he will be a better fit for the Vikings if he is able to refine his skills to align better with being a third-down back.

“Just being more versatile,” he said. “You look at the young guys, Jerick, he comes in a lot on third down and he presents a different piece to our offense, running routes and things like that. I envision myself doing things like that at a different level so that’s what I mean by being more involved and being more diverse when it comes to the offense we have.”

Peterson credited offensive coordinator Norv Turner with doing a good job this season and says, as the offense changed, eventually the Vikings “found the right formula.”

The Vikings finished the regular season with the 29th-ranked offense based on yardage – fourth in rushing and 31st in passing. They were 16th in points scored, and putting up nine points in the first round of the playoffs underscored the need to score more points.

“Without a doubt. Just taking yesterday, you get three touchdowns (instead of field goals and) you get ready for Arizona,” Peterson said, referencing the 10-9 loss to Seattle. “The last four weeks I think we did a good job of putting points on the board, but as an offense you want to lead the league in scoring so that’s something we’ll focus on as well.”

Peterson said no surgeries would be needed this offseason and his body is healthy beyond the normal “nag and nicks” that will heal with rest.

“My mindset is just to come back and be the best you guys have seen just overall and for this organization as well,” he said.

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