Ira Miller: Peterson-Turner tandem makes Vikings factor
The only surprise in Adrian Peterson's return to the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday was the timing. He could have waited until well into training camp, been quickly ready for the regular-season opener and claimed his full season's salary.
The only surprise in Adrian Peterson’s return to the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday was the timing. He could have waited until well into training camp, been quickly ready for the regular-season opener and claimed his full season’s salary.
Instead, Peterson not only came back in plenty of time for training camp, but even to participate in the organized team activity (OTA) once known as minicamp.
He said he did it because he “wanted to,” because he had a long time to think about it and because he wanted to get back with his coaches and teammates - even after, he admitted, going through a period during his suspension when “I really didn’t know what I wanted.”
Peterson eventually recognized his options were limited - play for the Vikings or retire - but the timing of his return should make clear that this is a proud man, a great player, and if anybody questioned whether he would still play as hard as he could, this should settle that.
Significantly, Peterson acknowledged he “made a mistake,” administering a beating so severe to his young son that he eventually took a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor reckless assault charge that cost him almost all of the 2014 NFL season.
“I’m definitely not the victim,” Peterson said. “I made a mistake ... It’s something that I regret.”
Now, it may be time for the rest of the NFC North to regret Peterson’s return.
For that, we must introduce Norv Turner, the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, and if there is a coach in the NFL who can do a better job of utilizing his running game, I’d love to meet him.
Turner’s reputation was made in the passing game and working with quarterbacks - he was Troy Aikman’s presenter at the Hall of Fame - but let’s just pause a moment and consider what he has done with running backs.
We’ll start with Emmitt Smith, who won the NFL rushing title each of the three years Turner called the Cowboys’ plays. Then came Eric Dickerson and LaDainian Tomlinson, no introduction necessary. In Miami, Ricky Williams had the two best years of his career - 3,200 yards rushing - with Turner calling the plays.
In Turner’s one year with San Francisco, Frank Gore rushed for 1,695 yards and averaged 5.4 per carry - nearly 500 yards above his second-best season, and nearly a yard per carry better than his career average.
Anybody could have coached those guys, you say.
So how do you explain someone named LaMont Jordan rushing for 1,000 yards when Turner coached him with the Raiders? Or Ryan Matthews doing the same when Turner coached him with the Chargers?
Kinda makes you want to see what Turner can do with Peterson, who is the best back of his generation.
“I’ll be anxious to get out there,” Peterson said. “My body feels good, feels fresh.”
At 30, he’s running out of time, and there have been suggestions the Vikings might not want to honor the three years remaining on his contract.
But in Turner’s running game, it is just as likely Peterson could have such a big season that they’ll throw even more money at him to keep him happy.
Sure, his contract is not guaranteed, but does anyone really think the Vikings are willing to take the heat they’re sure to take for bringing him back, and then get rid of him just as they prepare to move into a new stadium in 2016? That makes no sense.
What does make sense is that Peterson’s return could make a serious impact on the power structure in the NFC North.
Without him a year ago, the Vikings finished 7-9, losing four games by three points or less.