Chester Taylor rushed for 1,216 yards in 2006, his first season as a full-time starter during his five years in the NFL. But over the course of carrying the ball a franchise-record 303 times, he missed one game while suffering bruised ribs and "overall body soreness."
"If you look at last year, he had that rib injury and was a little dinged up toward the end and he understands in this league you're going to get hit a lot. The less hits you take on your body, the lot longer you're going to be able to play, not only for this season but for seasons to come," said fullback Tony Richardson after the Vikings' first day of organized team activities Tuesday. "Larry Johnson is a good friend of mine, but I told (Chester), ‘You don't want to break the carries record. That's not the record you want. You might want to break the yardage record or touchdowns, but you don't want to lead the league in carries because you want to last in this league.' There are reasons why guys like Emmitt Smith and Marcus Allen lasted a long time. They had other guys that could kind of take the load off them a little bit."
Taylor finally was available for comment on Tuesday and seemed fine with the whole idea of splitting carries with Adrian Peterson, the No. 7 overall draft pick. Richardson said he never thought it would be an issue, given the personalities of the two running backs.
"I think (Taylor) understands it, understands the big picture," said Richardson, a 12-year veteran of the NFL. "Especially at this point in his career, it should be about winning and doing whatever he has to do and whatever it takes to win. Chester is not a big ego guy and has never been, so I think he can co-exist. And both of these are good quality young men, it's not like Adrian is coming here and saying, ‘I'm the big dog on campus.' Obviously, if you talk to him, he's very humble and just wants to get to work and win. Chester is the same way, so I think it should work well."
The dynamic of their relationship never was a concern, said Peterson. "I've heard nothing but positive things about Chester. Being the type of guy I am, I feel like we'll get along well," said the electric rookie from Oklahoma.
At several points during Tuesday's practice, Taylor and Peterson were in a split backfield and both were sent out on pass patterns. The dynamic duo could be used in a variety of ways with both of them on the field at the same time, and it's all about finding ways to exploit mismatches, Peterson said.
"Just having two backs who can get out there and mess with the defense, put us on a linebacker and give us advantages. Getting on linebackers and out in open space will free some things in the open field," he said.
"I think it's going to be good," Richardson said of having two starting-caliber tailbacks out on the field. "You see teams – actually the two teams that represented in the Super Bowl last year in Indianapolis and Chicago both had the two-headed monster and they did it very effectively. The faster we can get AP along, and obviously Chester looked very good (Tuesday), I think it's just going to help us out and we'll be better down the road."
It might not take Peterson that long to get accustomed to the NFL game. He called the process of learning the playbook "manageable" to this point, and it didn't take him long to establish himself in college.
As a freshman, he broke the University of Oklahoma rushing record set by Billy Sims (1,896) with his 1,925 yards rushing, which also broke Ron Dayne's NCAA freshman record of 1,863 yards. In the end, Peterson finished his three-year career with 4,045 yards, third in school history, becoming only the fifth player in Big 12 history to rush for more than 4,000 yards.
"I think the biggest thing first of all is his size. Obviously, he's a big back, but his quickness, he can get in and out of cuts and really outrun half the defense," Richardson said of Peterson's skill set. "A lot of people said he didn't (catch) the ball that much, but if I had him at Oklahoma I wouldn't have thrown the ball either. I'd just hand it off. Last week he caught the ball extremely well, so the kid is extremely talented. I'm just anxious to see him when the live bullets start flying."
Peterson made a number of nice catches on the run Tuesday, including an extended one-hander from a scrambling Tarvaris Jackson.
But Richardson's analysis of Peterson's physical skills had to prodded out of him. The fullback, one of the most respected players on the team, wanted to discuss Peterson's personality first and foremost, which is further indication that the selection of a star running back with the seventh overall draft choice shouldn't cause a division in the locker room anytime soon.
"Obviously, we know what he can do on the football field, but I like him more as a person and a young man. He has a bright future, a very humble guy. He just wants to come in and go to work," Richardson said. "That's what you want from young guys – guys that are eager to learn, work hard and are just going to give you everything week in and week out."
And two of them could be better than one.
Taylor-Peterson Backfield: ‘Going to be Good'
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