Peterson out of rushing lead, catching more

Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson is widely considered the best running back in the NFL. However, he is no longer in the league lead for rushing yards. Peterson reacted to that and his increased role in the passing game.

The Vikings have the sixth-ranked rushing offense in the league, but Adrian Peterson is no longer at the top of the NFL charts when it comes to yards gained.

The defending NFL rushing leader is now tied for third place in the league's standings with 784 yards through eight games. It's a solid average he's setting at 98 yards per contest, but he is still 175 yards behind the pace of Tennessee's Chris Johnson.

Peterson is a highly competitive person, but the success of the team comes first.

"It's not as big of a deal, but of course you guys know my mentality. I want to be the best in what I do," he said. "But two different teams (between the 2-6 Titans and 7-1 Vikings), two different situations."

Last year, Peterson rushed 363 times for 1,780 yards, both numbers easily topping his rookie performance in 2007, when he had 238 carries for 1,341 yards but only started nine games and played in 14.

This year, Peterson is on pace to rush 326 times, about two fewer carries per game, but his average is still 4.8 yards, just as it was last year.

"I'm contributing in the pass game and the run game," Peterson said. "I'm doing my part as far as contributing to this team, so if (the rushing title) comes, then it will be good. If not, hopefully we'll be playing in that big game on the East Coast. That's really what it's all about. It's not about individual goals. It's about what's best for the team and the team goals. Thus far, that's working well."

"That big game on the East Coast" is Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010 in South Florida. Peterson was asked if players were reluctant to use the "Super Bowl" phrase, and he said they didn't want to get too far ahead of themselves.

But, while Peterson's rushing opportunities have decreased slightly, he is being used more in the receiving game. He has already caught 19 passes, the same number he caught all of his rookie season and only two fewer than he had last year.

So why the uptick in using Peterson in the passing game?

"We have had Adrian in there in some situations on third down in (the) two-minute (offense). We've been building him up to those points," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "He's getting some more opportunities as well. We've always thought that he caught the ball well enough to be there, but there was obviously third down and two-minute (offense) with protections and those things that he had to be sound on. We're still coming along with that." Bevell said one reason Peterson is getting the ball more in the passing game is that quarterback Brett Favre gets to his check-down passes so quickly. Peterson said getting more involved in the passing game was just a matter of getting comfortable with his role in those situations.

"I would say my first two years I was just getting comfortable with the different defensive looks that they would give to you, not going out and being hesitant," he said. "Any time you get the ball in space or out in the perimeter, it's nice. I love running through guys, but any time you can get one-on-one or out in space, I like it."

There is one benefit to Peterson not carrying the ball quite as much as he did last year.

"I feel pretty good. Actually, I feel real good," he said coming back from the Vikings' midseason bye. "Last year around this time, maybe the body (had) a little more wear and tear, but we've got so many ways to score on the offensive side. A lot of guys are stepping up, contributing and making big plays, and really contributing to the offense. (Defenses are) not really just focused on the running game. It's balanced. With that, I don't have to take a pounding so much, so I feel pretty good."

NOTES

  • Receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring) was limited in practice again Thursday, but it sounds like he will be able to play. He was injured in the Steelers game but played in the Vikings' last game against the Packers on Nov. 1. "I still think he's working his way back. He still treats every day. He hasn't missed any time," Bevell said. "… Still expecting him to play and still expecting him to be Bernard."

  • Bevell said he believes Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson has recovered from his back injury. "I think Hutch is back. I think he's physically where he needs to be," Bevell said. "All these guys obviously have some types of bumps and bruises, but I don't think there is anything major with that."

  • Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said E.J. Henderson continues to work through shoulder and knee injuries this year. Henderson hasn't missed any playing time, but he has been limited in practice with the knee injury. "This time of the year you're just trying to fight through it and hopefully not reinjure it and continue to get treatment, which he did during the bye week," Frazier said.

  • CB Antoine Winfield (foot) was limited in practice as well. Winfield returned to practice this week after missing the three weeks with a foot injury. "I hope he'll be able to play. He's trying his best to get ready for this ballgame and we'll see what happens this week as he continues to progress," Frazier said. "Our doctors and trainers will make a decision, hopefully by Friday, to get him out there and get a little bit more work out of him. We've got our fingers crossed."

  • There were no changes to the Vikings' injury report from Wednesday. QB Brett Favre (hip/groin), LB E.J. Henderson (knee), CB Antoine Winfield (foot) and WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring) were limited.

  • For the Lions, LB Larry Foote (knee), LB Ernie Sims (hamstring) and DT Grady Jackson (knee) did not participate. Jackson was limited on Wednesday. DE Dewayne White (toe), DT Joe Cohen (ankle), LB Jordon Dizon (neck) and QB Matthew Stafford (knee) were limited Thursday.

  • The Vikings are encouraging fans to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the Lions game at the Metrodome this Sunday. Members of the Vikings Women's Organization, led by Dru Childress, the wife of head coach Brad Childress, and Jardin Loeffler, the wife of long snapper Culler Loeffler, along with volunteers from the Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank, will be stationed at each gate to collect the food from 10 a.m. until the noon kickoff. Cash donations will go toward securing additional meals for underserved youth through the Vikings Summer Lunch Program, a community partnership with Second Harvest Heartland. If fans can't make it to the game, they can go to www.2harvest.org and donate online.

  • Scout.com's Chris Steuber has updated his 2010 mock draft. See who he has the Vikings taking late in the first round by clicking here.

  • The Vikings continue to check in at fourth place in the rankings of Scout.com's Adam Caplan. "The addition of veteran Brett Favre has finally given this team stability at the quarterback position – at least for one season," Caplan wrote. "It's amazing how good of a receiver Sidney Rice has become now that he's healthy. The back end of the defense, however, is still a concern going forward."

  • Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said that most of the players on the roster have had an opportunity to be involved in the kicking game, which is important throughout the regular season so they can be comfortable if used later in the year or during the playoffs.

  • Former Vikings DE Erasmus James pleaded not guilty to battery charges Thursday morning stemming from an incident in a Madison, Wis., bar last weekend.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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