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Peterson helping teammates set sights on Super Bowl

MANKATO, Minn.--Adrian Peterson spoke and his teammates listened. The Vikings running back said last month he doesn't want any teammates who don't think they can win the Super Bowl this season. Since then, players haven't been shy about talking big.

Jun 15, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) answers questions after practice at mini camp. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) answers questions after practice at mini camp in June. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

MANKATO, Minn.-Adrian Peterson spoke and his teammates listened.

The Vikings running back said last month he doesn't want any teammates who don't think they can win the Super Bowl this season. Since then, players haven't been shy about talking big.

"It's time to take that next step and make a run in the playoffs," guard Brandon Fusco said. "Not just making the playoffs and winning the division; I'm thinking about winning a Super Bowl now. If we don't win it all this year, it would be very disappointing."

The quest begins in earnest Thursday when the Vikings report for training camp in Mankato, Minn. They are coming off their first NFC North title since 2009, although they lost the playoff opener 10-9 to Seattle when Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal in the waning seconds at TCF Bank Stadium.

All that seems to have done is make the Vikings more hungry as they prepare for their initial season at U.S. Bank Stadium. Coming off an 11-5 campaign, they're determined to be in Houston on Feb. 5 for Super Bowl LI.

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"We want to win the whole thing," guard Mike Harris said. "We want a Super Bowl. That's how I feel; (the goal) is to win a championship. Anything less is not good enough."

This is big talk for a team that hasn't won a playoff game in seven years, and hasn't been to a Super Bowl in 40. Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe Minnesota can have a banner season.

The Vikings return all starters from a defense that ranked fifth in the NFL in points allowed and comprises many up-and-coming talents. Added this offseason were linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, who will battle Chad Greenway for a starting job, and strong safety Michael Griffin, who will compete with Andrew Sendejo.

There remain some questions on offense, where the Vikings ranked just 29th last season in yards per game, but they have beefed up the offensive line with the additions of guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith. Third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is still a work in progress, but head coach Mike Zimmer said he looked a lot better throwing the deep ball this spring.

As for Peterson, he's showing no signs of slowing at age 31. He rushed for an NFL-best 1,485 yards last season, one reason he's hardly shy talking about winning his first Super Bowl. He has come close to the big game only once. That was in 2009, when the Brett Favre-led Vikings made it the NFC championship game before falling 31-28 at New Orleans in overtime.

With the retirement earlier this week of tackle Phil Loadholt, the only players remaining from that team are Peterson, Greenway, defensive end Brian Robison and center John Sullivan.

Greenway is entering his 11th and final NFL season, and obviously wants to go out on top. But he speaks with some caution about the Vikings needing to remain on an even keel.

"I think we're in position to be successful, but it's the NFL," Greenway said. "This thing can turn on its head in a second. Expectations are a slippery slope and a risky business in the NFL, because there's so much parity and so much talent across the league.

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"Managing expectations is going to be critical for us, but so is staying on point in our approach to practice, our work ethic, our mentality and in meeting rooms."

Despite optimism surrounding the team, the Vikings didn't rest on any laurels during spring drills. Zimmer was so happy with their work ethic he gave players the final day off from practice.

Players generally aren't in love with training camp, but as the Vikings prepare to report, Fusco said, he's never been more fired up.

"It's a good vibe around the whole state of Minnesota," said Fusco, entering his sixth Vikings season. "The team's excited, the fans are excited, I'm excited. ... I think we know what we're capable of. We took a big step last year by winning the division. That was a start, but I don't think we're going to just settle on that. We know we're a young team and we're growing as a team, and it's about time to take that next step."

The ultimate step would be winning the first Super Bowl team in team history.

The only player on the Vikings roster to have played and won a Super Bowl is nose tackle Linval Joseph, who started in the New York Giants' 21-17 over New England in Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012. From what Joseph saw in the spring, the Vikings are on the right track to get to that level.

"I saw the work and dedication that everybody was willing to bring to the table," Joseph said. "We know where we stand. We know what we have to do. I feel like it's going to be a special year."

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