Lurtsema's Reaction: Peterson, Jackson & More

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema has taken in a few training camp practices this week and came away with some not-so-obvious opinions of some of the key players to the Vikings' success in 2007. See what the old Benchwarmer had to say about Adrian Peterson, Tarvaris Jackson, Leslie Frazier and the training camp grind.

VU: Monday's practice was the third day of two-a-day practices and most people said it was lethargic, but I know you said you liked it. Why is that?

BL: Well, what goes on in the first days of camp, you come in there fresh. After three or four days, you lose your legs – all of the sudden, bam, they're gone. You push beyond what you thought you were doing in the offseason to be in great shape, but you never can be in that good of shape like they're going to work you. Like when Adrian Peterson came in, they worked him. They did everything out of that split backfield that he wanted to do. He's going to be the future face of this franchise and they showed it. He really worked hard. You watch Adrian Peterson in three or four days of straight camp (after he gets back from injury) and I guarantee you it's going to be a laugher. He's going to fumble three or four times or trip over his own feet, but just watch that. Now you see people that have lost their legs. It's like when I saw Richard Owens coming off the field, I was going to call 911, but he worked so hard. I knew where he was coming from. He didn't have that little twinkle in his eye that he usually carries and I kind of chuckled to myself.

But you watch them and see who pushes through it and then we're going to see who has got the good habits. No matter what you do, when you get tired and are dead on your fanny, you're going to fall to your habits. It better be a good one. I saw so many rookies with terrible, terrible feet. If that was their habit, it was terrible. I spotted five offensive linemen that I wouldn't waste two more minutes with them – it's that obvious when you watch enough line play like I've done. That's all I really care about. The average fan, of course, watches all the receivers and backs. It's the same thing every year and it's going to be fun.

If Peterson were playing Friday and Saturday night, I would have gone out on a limb and said he wouldn't look as good there as he will during the season.

VU: People talk about speed and the explosiveness of Peterson. Anything else that really stood out with him that you like or that you think he needs to improve on?

BL: He pretty much took a lot of hits. He's got soft enough hands coming out of the backfield that I think he's going to be alright there and he missed a block one time, but so what? It's a little different in the National Football League. It's not so much if you miss a block, it's that everybody is coming three times faster than anybody ever did in college – with perfect timing.

The biggest thing I thought was that sometimes he took a bigger hit than he had to take. In college, he probably ran over defenders. There is going to be a time in the National Football League where you're going to have to go down a little easier. That's a hard step to take, but it's part of the growing process. There is a time to go down and you want to fight again. You might lose that battle but you want to win the war. In college, you might play against two or three NFL-type players in your entire season. Sure, the competition is tough at Oklahoma or in the Big Ten or wherever, but it's a big jump from college to the pros, and in the NFL there are no days off or games off. In college, I'll bet you'll have two or three really tough defensive linemen you are going to hit and maybe you got away with it, but now you can't do that for 16 straight weeks. It's not that he's backing away from anything and it's not that he's not tough, it's just that you want to win the war.

VU: That's something that Robert Smith had to learn too, right?

BL: Yep. In fact, Robert Smith even came out and said that on a few occasions. Rather than fight for the extra yard, Robert even addressed it at a news conference after a game that a guy had an angle on him that there was no way he could get out of it without getting literally crushed. Do you call Robert a chicken? Absolutely not.

VU: With Tarvaris Jackson only having last year under his belt, is this going to be a rough trip dealing with him this year?

BL: He has got to have a running game, a consistent running game. You can't put the pressure on him to have to throw 30 times a game and have a high completion rate. Even with Vince Young, everybody says, ‘Look at how great Vince Young was.' Well, look at his stats. His stats don't back him. He made some big plays for Tennessee. I watched him and I was amazed at some of the plays he had, but you look at his overall performance and his stats weren't up there and his rating wasn't there, but he made the big plays. Tarvaris Jackson has got to have a running game because there is no way he is going to set up those receivers without that. I think it's going to be a natural strength because there is such diversity with split backs and he can dump the short stuff. He can sit back and actually have the back as a primary receiver, fake down field and dump short. He's got to have the running game, and they've got the horses up front to do it.

VU: Defensively with Leslie Frazier, what have you found out from him now versus a few months ago?

BL: How you can lose somebody like Mike Tomlin that says, ‘I coach to the players strength' and you saw what he did being No. 1 against the run. People were on his case for making adjustments, but that's a whole new ballgame. But you lose someone like that whom the players liked and you think, oh boy, here was go again. The worst thing is to get a new coach every year. That's why with Brad Childress, coming into his second year, we'll find out how much the players have made the adjustment to Coach Childress and of course Coach Childress has stated that he's communicating more so they've come to terms, which is a positive. But you bring a Frazier in like that and players love him. He's one of Tony Dungy's best friends. If you talk to him and you don't have respect for him immediately, there is something wrong with you. He's just a wonderful, wonderful individual. His first statement was almost like Tomlin's – that I'll play to the strength of my players. I've talked to the players about it and he's making it very easy to learn. I think he's going to do a little bit of blitzing, but the defensive line has got to turn up the heat a little bit more. The little bit I've seen, they haven't improved as much as I thought, but it's early. Everybody knows that if you've got that weakness, you've got to start throwing the kitchen sink at everybody. Take a chance. If that's the only way you're going to win, do it.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.


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