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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson takes a handoff from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on the first day of training camp Friday in Mankato. St. Paul Pioneer Press

Peterson likes feel of new Vikings' offense

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By Brian Murphy

St. Paul Pioneer Press

MANKATO — Adrian Peterson once likened learning offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s versatile multiple formations to performing surgery.

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The Vikings’ star running back used a scalpel Monday to carve up Minnesota’s old schemes and coaching strategies that helped him rush for 2,097 yards in 2012 but also had become lifeless and conventional.

“This is what I’ve been looking for the past seven years,” Peterson declared. “I think we have an offense that fits our talent. I’m pretty excited what Norv Turner has (planned) for us. He gives a lot of guys opportunities to make plays and be more versatile as an offense.”

Peterson started to walk back that blunt assessment before doubling down when asked what excited him most.

“Not to take anything away from the coaches we’ve had before, but just (being) more versatile,” he said. “We’ve kind of been predictable the past couple of years. You won’t be able to write that story this year because this offense is that versatile.”

Peterson also pushed back against criticism about his haphazard pass-catching abilities, which Turner has praised in vowing to deploy him more out in the perimeter.

“I don’t want to make it seem like I’m Michael Irvin or Jerry Rice, but I’ve been playing this game since I was 7; I can catch the football,” he said.

Peterson has averaged 29 receptions and 242 receiving yards in seven seasons. He caught that many passes in 2013, but his yardage dropped to 171.

He caught a career-high 43 passes for 436 yards in 2009, another weapon for quarterback Brett Favre in an explosive offense that was the second-most productive in franchise history and helped the Vikings reach the NFC championship game.

“When you’re in my position, everything is highlighted,” Peterson said, bristling at the scrutiny. Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards last season, a 40 percent drop from his historic 2012 performance. Nagging injuries sidelined him for two of the final three games. He has had three surgeries since December 2011 on his knee, abdomen and groin, respectively.

Peterson, 29, is racing against Father Time and his medical chart, neither of which is kind to running backs approaching their 30th birthday.

“Adrian has been good with everything. This guy’s not 30 years old,” said coach Mike Zimmer, overestimating his superstar’s age. “There’s no way. He made some great cuts, some outstanding runs that impressed me. I’ve watched him on tape many, many years. He impressed me even more.”

His durability is paramount as the Vikings recalibrate under Turner, who wants to integrate Peterson more into a third-down back who can be trusted with pass protection.

“He likes the direction of where things are going, the attitude that Norv brings, the attitude and discipline and everything that’s going this way,” Zimmer said. “He’s helping the players a lot in this way.”

Peterson’s workload is a perennial preseason question. He acknowledges “there’s nothing like live” contact but is content with getting his carries during practices.

Zimmer is more interested in preserving than showcasing his workhorse.

“He won’t get many (carries in) the preseason,” Zimmer said. “I don’t need to see him.”

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