NFL: Weapons are back for Vikings this year
By Brian MurphySt. Paul Pioneer Press EDEN PRAIRIE -- Norv Turner called all of 25 plays for Adrian Peterson last season before a child-abuse scandal exiled the star running back and robbed the Vikings' offensive coordinator of his most powerful ...
By Brian Murphy
St. Paul Pioneer Press
EDEN PRAIRIE - Norv Turner called all of 25 plays for Adrian Peterson last season before a child-abuse scandal exiled the star running back and robbed the Vikings’ offensive coordinator of his most powerful lever.
Peterson commands the backfield again, and Turner has a diversified offense to shape in 2015 after patching together makeshift lineups during 16 chaotic games in 2014.
“I’ve been around a lot of these guys a lot of years, and he’s one of the top guys I’ve ever been around,” Turner said following Thursday’s practice. “He just comes out and looks like he hasn’t missed a day. It was nice having him.”
It was Peterson’s second workout at Winter Park since rejoining the Vikings on Tuesday for their second phase of organized team activities. Peterson served team and NFL suspensions that sidelined him 15 games and kept him off the practice field for nine months.
“He’s very comfortable with what we’re doing,” Turner said. “He’s retained a lot. We have new stuff in, and he was eager to get involved in that. He’s had three good days.”
During full-team drills, Peterson lined up behind second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and as a flanker along with new wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Former Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph, sidelined seven games in 2014 because of injuries, is another returning playmaker to whom Turner had limited access a season ago.
“Having Adrian back is huge,” said Rudolph.
Are the Vikings a playoff team?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think if he was around last year, we had a great chance to clinch a playoff berth. He’s that special of a player.”
Wide receiver Charles Johnson emerged last year as a viable downfield threat, and slot receiver Jarius Wright connected productively with Bridgewater down the stretch.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are going to be able to play when we get into games, and we’re going to be able to use a lot of our personnel groups,” Turner said. “Maybe it’s a third tight end. Maybe it’s a fullback that’s a good receiver.
“It’s exciting to have Mike Wallace. He’s a big-play receiver. He’s proven that. C.J.’s picked up where he left off in December, and he’s having a good spring. There’s going to be great competition for playing time on Sundays.”
Turner was complimentary toward third-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who struggled to develop as a reliable route-runner last year and lost his starting job to Johnson.
“Cordarrelle’s taken a very positive approach doing the things we’re asking him to do,” Turner said. “He’s working on doing the little things we’re asking him to do. He’s got a smile on his face and he’s working hard.”
Without Peterson, the leading rusher in Minnesota history with 10,190 yards over eight seasons, the offense struggled.
The Vikings averaged just 4.4 yards per carry last season, down from 4.9 in 2013 and 5.4 in 2012, when Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-most in NFL history.
Moreover, Minnesota last year ranked 20th in the NFL in points scored and 27th in total offense.
Bridgewater won half of his 12 starts after Matt Cassel suffered a season-ending broken foot in Week 3. In that game, right guard Brandon Fusco was lost for the year with a pectoral injury and later right tackle Phil Loadholt’s season was cut short by injury.
Still, the Vikings managed to finish 7-9.
“Our guys handled it,” Turner said. “I’ve been in those situations. The last six games guys kind of … I don’t want to say packed it in, but didn’t give themselves the best chance.
“This group continued to work hard and we got better in November and December, and I think we’re better now than we were in December.”
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