Peterson Preparing for Texas Homecoming

Vikings rookie Adrian Peterson just got done with the best rookie rushing performance in franchise history, and now he gets to head back to his home state of Texas to face arguably the best team in the NFC. How's he handling it, and what are his teammates saying about his abilities?

Some NFL players try to downplay the significance of facing the team they grew up loving. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is keeping it low-key – which is his usual off-field approach – but admits he's excited for the opportunity to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. Central.

Peterson grew up in Palestine, Tex., about 75 minutes from Dallas by his estimates, and actually played for the "Cowboys" … when he was playing Little League. Incidentally, that's about how he made the Bears defense look, according to quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

"It was like a grown man playing against pee-wee kids. There's not one word to describe it. He did everything (Sunday) – outran people, ran through people, used his juke button. He did everything," Jackson said.

The Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys were Peterson's teams growing up, and he especially enjoyed the talents of Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin, he said.

"It's a game I've been looking forward to back in my home state," he said.

It doesn't hurt that the billing was changed to a 3:15 p.m. Central kickoff and that Peterson should be a lock for Offensive Rookie of the Week honors and likely the leading candidate for NFC Offensive Player of the Week. He took Rookie of the Month honors already for September.

And, oh, by the way, he is also coming off a franchise-record 224-yard rushing game and leads the NFL with 607 yards rushing despite splitting carries and is still 80 yards ahead of second-place LaDainian Tomlinson.

Peterson, while humble, still isn't surprised by his success to this point and still has one of his goals to reach 1,800 yards.

"I worked hard in practice, so anything is possible. I owe it all to the guys up front who created those holes and the guys out wide who made those blocks downfield," he said.

Yet Vikings coach Brad Childress continues to call Peterson the team's No. 2 running back.

"I can say it over and over, I sound like a broken record, but he is just happy to be contributing and being a viable part of this team and this organization and just finding ways that he can contribute. It's extremely refreshing," Childress said while also conceding that Peterson "is the best that I have seen or coached."

Peterson genuinely doesn't seem to mind splitting time with Taylor. While he says he could handle more carries and kickoff returns, he also said his body felt good after he got 20 carries and Taylor had 22. Peterson also added one reception and four kickoff returns while Taylor didn't get involved in either of those elements.

"We've got two guys that can run the ball. You look at Chet, he almost had 100 yards, so we've got two guys that can run the ball. Two horses are better than one," Peterson said.

Peterson is averaging 121.4 yards per game, a pace that would put him at 1,942 yards and break Eric Dickerson's NFL rookie record of 1,808 rushing yards in 1983, a likely incentive for Peterson's goal of 1,800 yards.

"I set my goals and set my bar high and work my butt off to be able to have a chance to reach those goals," Peterson said.

Peterson has been tagged as a humorous teammate, although he has yet to consistently show that side to the media. He has been accommodating and often addresses reporters as "sir" or "ma'am" and flashes a million-dollar smile, but he doesn't yet seem completely relaxed with the media or simply isn't all that talkative.

One person who is at ease with the media is center Matt Birk, who was asked about the combination of Peterson's immense talent and his level-headedness.

"If you guys don't blow smoke up his ass, maybe you won't ruin him," Birk said.

That seems unlikely at this point, but the national stage and his Texas homecoming on Sunday will surely draw a new round of interview requests.

That could present additional challenges, as will the Cowboys' second-ranked rush defense, but Peterson is likely preparing diligently for the challenge. He's been tagged as a hard worker and someone who wants to improve even as he draws the praise of many, yet there is still a difference between what he does in practice and what he unleashes in games.

"Practice players are practice players. Guys that play on Sundays play on Sundays," linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "He's a guy that you see in practice and say, ‘OK, this guy has got skills' and then you see him on Sunday and say, ‘This kid's amazing.' Different times, different situations."

The situation on Sunday will be this: Adrian Peterson is going home and anticipating the opportunity.

"It's kind of like going back and playing Texas when I was with OU (Oklahoma). Now with the Vikings I'm going back to Texas. It's just going back home and playing a team that I grew up watching and loving," he said. "That's definitely something I'm excited about and looking forward to it."


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