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adrian peterson

We started off our preview series by discussing the depth chart at quarterback.  I neglected to discuss Christian Ponder’s ability to run the football, one that cannot be underestimated by opposing defenses, but when talking about the Vikings offense it isn’t going to be Ponder’s legs that steal the show.

Adrian Peterson returned from major knee surgery to make 2012 the best season of his Hall of Fame career.  He started every game for the first time in his six NFL seasons.  He averaged a ridiculous six yards per carry, despite a consistent extra man or two being brought into the box to stop him, and ended the season just nine yards shy of the all time rushing record.  His 2,097 rushing yards were more than enough to lead the NFL, but so were his 76 broken tackles and 1,438 yards accumulated after contact.  He also scored 12 touchdowns one the ground and had a whopping five runs of over 60 yards.

Peterson’s dedication and work ethic are surely a huge part of his big comeback season, and it is easy to forget about the man who paved the way for him, but Pro bowl fullback Jerome Felton deserves a lot of credit for all of that success, as well.  The Vikings were wise to re-sign Felton this offseason and make sure their duo stays intact for at least one more season, as Felton proved to be a major upgrade ahead of Peterson and also blocked cleanly in pass protection, and he never committed a single penalty.

With Peterson and Felton both having robust contracts relative to their positions, and stated goals to increase their roles within the offense, there is no doubt that they will retain their seats atop the depth chart.  The primary backup to Peterson is still expected to be Toby Gerhart, who ran the ball only 50 times for 169 yards and a touchdown last season, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see his role continue to diminish as he plays out his rookie contract.

Gerhart’s true value lies in his ability to step in and be a workhouse in the event that Peterson goes down with an injury.  He has shown the ability to do this in the past and, despite being benched for a case of fumblitis against the Niners, the lack of any big signings or draft selections at the running back position suggests that the Vikings staff feels comfortable with him as the primary backup.  Besides, he is a very serviceable option when it comes to stepping in on third down for pass protection and as a decent hands guy to run the checkdown routes.  Gerhart caught 20 balls for 155 yards in 2012, and nine of those catches converted into first downs.

While other teams are dealing with murder scandals and bare-assed quarterbacks, Leslie Frazier’s Vikings are keeping things pretty quiet these days, which is every bit as important as it is boring.  Still, despite being in witching hour of the NFL offseason, there are some interesting notes from around the web to bring to your attention:

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The final minicamp practice on Thursday signaled the beginning of the darkest period of the NFL offseason, with more than a month’s time between now and the start of training camp, and Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier wants his players to stay on the right track.

It has been almost a full year since I was visiting reader Fran the Man at his Alaskan lodge and we simultaneously dropped our jaws in disbelief upon hearing the news of Adrian Peterson’s arrest in a Houston club.  The good news is those charges seemed bogus and were eventually dropped, and the better news is that it is the last time a Vikings player is known to have been in trouble.

“Just reminded them about the things they’ve got to get done in this time away,” Frazier said of his send off speech, “and remember that they represent us in their hometowns or wherever they travel at, that we all represent one another, and take care of their bodies.”

Frazier and G.M. Rick Spielman seem to be putting together a squad of high character guys that are focused on becoming champions.  Time and again we have heard Frazier preach to his players that none of them want to be “that guy.”

Provided the circus-like atmosphere surrounding New England right now, thanks to their star tight end getting himself embroiled in a murder case, it is refreshing to have an offseason where the biggest controversy involves an activist punter.

Stay out of trouble, Vikings.  We are all looking forward to seeing you play on Sundays this year.

I don’t think I have ever admitted this on these pages, but ever since 1500 ESPN came online, I have wondered at times why I even continue to cover the Vikings.  They took long-time and trustworthy veteran beat writer Judd Zulgad and combined him with the fresh, uber-ambitious style of Tom Pelissero to create a truly dominant source of Vikings information.

Unfortunately for 1500 ESPN, however, they also decided to bring Patrick Reusse into the fold, as well.  The phrase “better to release a guy a year too early than a year too late” comes to mind in this situation.  He might have some sort of radio following, but the station should do everything they can to keep him away from a typewriter.

In my assessment, a gradual decline in Reusse’s work began years ago, but really came to a head when he made the ridiculous declaration that it was a “100 percent certainty” that Manti Te’o would end up being drafted by the Vikings.  Of course, declaring anything a 100% certainty in the NFL is a risky proposition, and it is downright stupid when talking about one of the most divisive college prospects to enter the Draft in history.  If the Vikings coveted Te’o, which it now seems obvious they didn’t, there were still 31 other teams that could have thrown a wrench into those plans.  A veteran in covering sports should know better than to make such lofty and brainless predictions using such definite terms.

There really is no harm in a reporter crying for attention by making such a stupid declaration, though, and nobody has felt the need to hold Reusse responsible for it now that the Draft has come and gone with Te’o now sporting a Chargers jersey.  Yesterday, Reusse decided to make the leap from harmless to damaging in one of the most atrocious pieces of “journalism” I have seen come from 1500 ESPN since their inception, and readers should find the article to be downright insulting to their intelligence.

One of the biggest keys to the success of a football team is their ability to stay healthy, as well as prove deep enough at any given position to help cover for the unhealthy, and so it is important to keep tabs on the injuries plaguing the Vikings roster even as early as OTAs in May.

For the second day in a row, Jared Allen remains the only player absent from OTAs, but there is no indication that his absence has anything to do with injury.  As we mentioned yesterday, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN says Allen had family obligations this week, and it isn’t particularly abnormal for him to miss OTAs.

Wide out Greg Jennings faces big expectations in 2013 as he tries to improve on his last two injury riddled years in Green Bay.  That is why it is disappointing to hear that Jennings was a scratch only two days into OTAs with an ankle injury suffered yesterday.

“His ankle’s a little bit sore,” Frazier said to 1500 ESPN. “But he’ll be fine. Nothing serious. He’s on the side working with (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman.”

Meanwhile, fellow wide outs Greg Childs and Chris Summers were also unable to participate.  Childs is really no surprise, considering he tore both patellar tendons during the 2012 preseason.  An inspirational return from Childs would certainly be a welcomed surprise, but getting any sort of contribution from him in 2013 would indeed be a, well… surprise.  Summers has the potential to compete for a roster spot at the bottom of the depth chart, but he will have to recover from his ankle injury in short order to avoid another season spent on the practice squad.

NFL MVP running back Adrian Peterson had surgery for a sports hernia on February 7th, but that isn’t expected to slow him down much, as it did little to slow him down as he played with the injury for weeks prior to the end of last season.  Peterson says he is “pretty much 100 percent” and was able to fully participate in all the drills and 11-on-11 skirmishes.  Minnesota’s offense lives and dies with Peterson so the importance of his health status simply cannot be stressed enough.  It is a good sign to hear that he is doing so well at the end of May.

Center John Sullivan had microfracture knee surgery this offseason and is not currently participating in OTAs.  After a season that arguably landed him among the top the centers in the league it will be a major disappointment if he has to miss any time, or doesn’t start the season at 100%, but that is not expected to be the case.

Linebacker Michael Mauti, drafted in the final round of this year’s Draft, was expectedly unable to participate.  Mauti’s list of past injuries is so long it can only be written on a scroll, but he could also represent one of the true steals of this class if he can recover from his latest knee reconstruction and stick to the Vikings roster, and he has the talent to challenge for a starting role in the future.  The first order of business, however, will be to get the Penn State product back to full health.

That might seem like a lengthy list of injuries, but outside of Childs and Mauti there is no indication that we need to consider any of them overly serious, and this is the time of year when displays of toughness will often take a backseat to precautionary measures.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated should any other developments surface.

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