Running back Adrian Peterson practiced with padded teammates for the first time since signing his large contract. See what he had to say about the experience and what more of teammates said about how he'll help the offense. Plus, get more than two dozen morning practice notes.
The Adrian Peterson
era in Minnesota officially began at 8:40 this morning, when the running back emerged from the locker room at Mankato to the shouts of "Adrian, Adrian" from numerous fans getting their first glimpse at the Vikings No. 1 choice.
Five minutes later, with a noticeable bounce in his step, the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Peterson participated in his first drills with his fellow running backs, while the majority of his teammates were still strolling onto the three-field complex.
"Happy to be here," said Peterson following the two-hour practice. Peterson arrived in Mankato at 11 p.m. Sunday night, a few hours after signing what amounts to a five-year, $40.5 million contract with $17 million in guaranteed money.
"(There's) a little more contact, and it's hotter our here (than OTAs, organized team activities)," Peterson said with a smile. The highest-drafted running back by the Vikings since Darrin Nelson in 1982 is expecting big things.
"I set my bar high," he said. "I couldn't tell you that I wouldn't want to be Rookie of the Year."
Thanks to a rare combination of speed and power that allowed him to rush for over 4,000 yards in three seasons at the University of Oklahoma
, many NFL observers believe Peterson has the potential to be the league's top rookie. The main question is Peterson's health. He missed six games last season after fracturing his left collarbone. He then aggravated the injury in the Fiesta Bowl.
But Peterson said he is healthy.
"No restrictions," he said. "I'm ready (for that big hit)…
"I've got a responsibility to go out there in practice and bust my tail."
Peterson saw plenty of action in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, although he watched the "live" portion of 11-on-11 play with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy. The elusive back didn't absorb any crunching blows, and he twisted his way into the secondary with a few of his carries.
"He seemed to adjust well and jump into things, and he did pretty good today," said linebacker Chad Greenway
In both drills, Peterson lined up as the lone running back with the first team before running with the second team. He had three to four carries for each of the sessions.
Even though it didn't occur this morning, Peterson said he and last year's workhorse, Chester Taylor
, will "definitely" be in the backfield at the same time for some plays this year.
Peterson, who averaged nearly six yards a carry in college, identified "learning the system" as his biggest challenge, but said he continued to study his playbook during his five-practice holdout.
Peterson seemed particularly humbled by the number of fans already wearing his No. 28 jersey. "It's a dream come true," he said.
Vikings players are dreaming about the possibilities Peterson brings a burst to an offense that established franchise lows for first downs and touchdown passes a year ago.
"When you can bring a force like that into the offense, man that's crazy good," said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe
. "Even in the locker room, he's just running around. He's just naturally fast. He's good. Explosive. Fires into the holes. I never see any mistakes. I'm excited about him."
Pro Bowl center Matt Birk
believes Peterson will be "great" for the team.
"He's an explosive player," Birk said. "He's a spark. I think we're all anxious, players as well as fans, to see what he can do in the pads. But he's a hard-working guy. He's got the right attitude. He'll definitely help our football team."
But Birk did couch that assessment.
"Just as long as he doesn't keep his wallet in his pocket. That would slow him down a little bit."
Other observations from Monday morning's full-pads practice:
Bieniemy got on Peterson a bit regarding his footwork during one early passing drill for the running backs. Peterson performed to Bieniemy's approval the next time.
Peterson, who only caught 24 balls in college, showed soft hands in short passing drills for the backs.
Head coach Brad Childress spent the first 30 minutes of practice watching the defense.
Receiver Billy McMullen, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and defensive end Erasmus James continued to do conditioning work on the side. All three have been held out of every training camp practice so far.
Linebacker Ben Leber (strained calf muscle), defensive end Brian Robison (leg muscle strain) and Shiancoe (foot) all returned to practice. Shiancoe had a lot of tape wrapped around the outside of both his cleats.
Safety Darren Sharper (shoulder strain) missed his third straight practice. The veteran watched the action from the sideline in shorts and a baseball cap.
Rookie free agent running back Arkee Whitlock was released prior to practice.
When Troy Williamson dropped his lone pass of the morning, there was an audible sigh from the crowd. Williamson later got big cheers when he used his hands, rather than his body, to nab a bullet from Jackson.
During the special teams portion, veteran Bobby Wade, Williamson and rookie Aundrae Allison took turns returning kicks from the JUGS machine.
Ryan Longwell looked solid kicking field goals, even nailing one after holder Chris Kluwe bobbled the snap from Cullen Loeffler.
Fifth-year back Artose Pinner seemed to be playing ahead of fourth-year man Mewelde Moore. At one point, free agent acquisition Vinny Ciurciu, a linebacker, got great penetration to nab Pinner in the backfield.
Tight end Jim Kleinsasser had a tough morning. He dropped one catchable ball and jumped offsides in 7-on-7 work.
When defensive tackle Alex Guerrero jumped offsides on the same drill, he let out a creative expletive as he ran down the field for his punishment.
Taylor showed a good burst with his limited carries.
Jackson looked reasonably sharp in 7-on-7 play. He had nice completions in traffic to Wade and rookie second-round pick Sidney Rice, who got inside third-round cornerback Marcus McCauley. However, Jackson got upset with himself when he overthrew Jeff Dugan on an outlet pass.
It's clear that Rice is the third receiver and McCauley is the nickel back at this point.
Backup linebacker Jason Glenn continued a strong camp with another interception. This one came off of rookie Tyler Thigpen.
Like on Saturday, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called and radioed in the plays during the "live" portion of 11-on-11 drills.
During 11-on-11, Kenechi Udeze and Ray Edwards lined up as the first-team defensive ends. Udeze earned praise from Childress when he stripped the ball from Jackson.
McCauley, safety Mike Doss, and cornerback Mike Hawkins all broke up passes.
Rookie wideout Chandler Williams made a nice first-down catch across the middle of the field.
Second-year man Norm Katnik was the second-string center.
Returning to action after a few days, Leber put a good hit on Taylor along the far sideline.
Peterson signed autographs for a good 15-20 minutes before meeting with the media after practice.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the bleachers were three-quarters full for the morning session.