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Latavius Murray primed to be next running back focal point for Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are officially moving on from the Adrian Peterson era and Latavius Murray is stepping into those big shoes in hopes of filling them.

It wasn’t a well-kept secret that it appeared the Minnesota Vikings were going to move on from Adrian Peterson when they didn’t work out a new contract prior to the start of free agency.

That speculation became fact early Thursday morning when the team announced the signing of Oakland running back Latavius Murray. Coming off a 1,000-yard season in 2015, Murray became part of a three-man backfield with De’Andre Washington and Jalen Richard.

With Oakland not making a strong push to re-sign Murray, despite being the team’s leading rusher the last two seasons, he made the jump to Minnesota where the promise of being more of a full-time back was possible.

“I’m just happy to be a Viking,” Murray said. “I really appreciate this opportunity that I’ve been given here just to play this game, just to continue my career. Obviously, I know it’s a business – that I’ve learned these last few days. I’m just glad to be given this opportunity by this organization.”

Murray took to social media after the signing of his contract saying that, out of respect to Peterson, he wouldn’t ask to keep his number 28, which he wore with the Raiders.

He reiterated that statement Thursday. It’s difficult enough to replace a Hall of Famer and didn’t have an interest in compounding that by wearing the number that Peterson made legendary in Minnesota.

“When I saw that maybe this could be a team I would be playing for, obviously you think about those different scenarios,” Murray said. “You think about who is wearing 28. Obviously, knowing that Adrian was there in Minnesota for so many years and wore that number, there wasn’t any thought in my mind that I was going to think about asking for that number or wearing that number. For one, I grew up watching the guy and I’ve been a huge fan of everything he’s done there. It was something I didn’t need them to tell me.”

Murray said he is going to wear No. 25, a tribute to Jonathan Diaz, his best friend from Onondaga High School who died after being shot last Thanksgiving Day in Syracuse. The high school teammates had remained close friends after Murray left to pursue his football dreams at Central Florida and then the NFL.

Murray isn’t changing his number in the event that Peterson would return to the Vikings. General Manager Rick Spielman made it clear Thursday that, with the signing of Murray to be the featured back in the Vikings offense, the organization would be moving forward without Peterson.

“I talked to Adrian,” Spielman said. “We had a great conversation earlier today. With us signing Murray, Adrian will move on elsewhere.”

Murray has big shoes to fill, but he is confident that he can bring a different element to the new-look Vikings offense. He has a skill set that he believes can make him a three-down back. A proven power runner with short-yardage prowess – as evidenced by 12 rushing touchdowns last season – he also feels he can be used in the passing game. In his last two seasons, he caught 74 passes and believes he can add a new dimension to the Vikings offensive game plan.

“I can improve the run game,” Murray said. “I know they had a hard time running the ball last year. I just feel I can come, run the ball, protect the quarterback and also catch the ball out of the backfield – just weapons to the offense that already has weapons.”

In a sport where rosters are constantly turning over and one season’s star is the next season’s casualty, Murray sees the daunting task of replacing the decade of dominance Peterson brought to Minnesota as his opportunity to cement his NFL legacy.

It’s never easy being an outsider coming in, much less replacing someone who was viewed as the face of the franchise for the last 10 years, but Murray is ready to take on the challenge of bringing his talents to the NFC and being a focal point of the offense in the post-Peterson era to come.

“It’s a business and I had to make a decision that was best for me and the place I knew I could have success at and get an opportunity,” Murray said.

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