For one Viking, Thursday night's preseason game was his first in purple. For others it was their last in purple. For still others, it was a tuneup for their first action in games that count.
Rookie running back Adrian Peterson falls into that final category and might be the most anticipated Viking to hit the regular season since Randy Moss excited fans in 1998.
Peterson ended up being the most worked running back on the roster in the preseason, and he and Chester Taylor backed their workhorse roles with the two highest averages among the running backs. Taylor averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 13 rushes and Peterson averaged 4.9 yards on 30 attempts.
But, despite getting his NFL feet wet in the preseason, Peterson knows his next action will be much more important that anything he's done to this point.
"It's the first game. The road to the Super Bowl. I'm very excited to get it going," he said before reflecting on his preseason performance. "I feel like it went pretty well. I've improved each week, picking up everything, so that's what it's all about, getting ready for next week when it really counts."
While Peterson has certainly displayed his explosiveness and athleticism when given an opening, the Vikings found the some of the same qualities with a rookie on the other side of the ball.
Brian Robison found out that holding at the NFL level is really only holding when it is called.
"There was tons of holding going, but you know what, that is part of the game and if they don't call it you've got to find another way to get there and that's what I try to do," said Robison, a defensive end who led the team with three sacks.
In fact, Robison is the only defensive lineman left on the team who had a sack in the preseason. Still, he admitted he is probably only going to be used situationally once the regular season starts.
"The way I am looking at it right now is I am probably going to be more of a situational pass rusher, getting in there and just coming in on third-and-long and things like that," he said after his final preseason game. "Just being able to give these guys like Erasmus (James) and Ray (Edwards) and those guys a break when they need it."
Second-year defensive end Ray Edwards, who looked sharp in training camp once the pads went on but didn't register a preseason sack, said the defensive line's lack of pressure minus Robison isn't a cause for concern.
"Not at all. We just go out there and play our game," Edwards said. "If we are going to get there, we were going to get there, and, if not, we definitely will just play our game regardless."
While Tarvaris Jackson isn't a rookie anymore, he did need some measure of proving his skills this preseason. He didn't throw a touchdown pass all preseason, but he did show he can be a decent "manager of the game," a phrase that seems to engender quarterbacks to head coach Brad Childress.
Jackson says he's looking forward to playing a game that will finally count.
"We're excited, just knowing that we will get to play the whole game and have some fun. You know we haven't had the chance to play a whole game yet and it really counts now. It's exciting to know that we are going to go out there and try to win a football game," he said.
Veteran Kelly Holcomb was the only player making his first appearance in purple on Thursday night after missing the previous two games with the Philadelphia Eagles due to a knee injury.
For him, next week will present an opportunity to get back into a routine after a hectic week.
"It's been a crazy week. I was in Philadelphia on Monday and I am playing a ballgame on Thursday with the Vikings, so it's been a little tough. A little sleep deprived, but, hey, that's the way the game goes," he said.
In his Minnesota debut, he completed 5 of 8 passes for 59, but one play – an interception that he tossed deep into double coverage – left a sour taste.
Asked how he felt on Thursday night, Holcomb said with a laugh: "Good until the last play. Yeah I felt good; it was coming to me and I was getting a little more comfortable. It goes back to the old saying (that) it doesn't matter if you are a rookie or going on a 13-year vet, if you try to make something happen that's not there, it bites you, and that is what happened."
So even the veterans learn or re-learn lessons in the preseason. For veteran center Matt Birk, the feelings and successes change from game to game.
"I think we have shown some promise, but what you do one week doesn't carry over to the next, necessarily," he said. "Every week you have to prepare and start new. You are only as good as your last game. It's kind of like you study all week and then every Sunday is a test, so you have got to pass the test every week."
That will start next week when the revamped team begins preparing in earnest for the games that count.
Final Preseason Thoughts
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