EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- On Monday night, Adrian Peterson will be back in a NFL game for the first time in 53 weeks. When his first carry comes before a national TV audience, Peterson said he’ll handle the moment by reminding himself to wait just a split second longer.
“I know from the past that when I go into a game and I’m too wired up, then you kind of forget about your principles when you’re out there, being slower and letting things develop,” Peterson said. “I’m conscious of that, and when that first snap comes -- whenever it is, first, second play, third play, second series, I don’t know -- I’ll take a deep breath and be ready to roll.”
The Minnesota Vikings running back makes his long-awaited return against the San Francisco 49ers, exactly a year to the day after the Vikings first deactivated him for his indictment on child injury charges. Peterson, who was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and later suspended for the rest of the season, didn’t play in the preseason. That means his first carry on Monday Night Football will be his first time getting tackled since Sept. 7, 2014.
Peterson followed up his 2012 MVP season by taking his first carry of the 2013 season 78 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. When asked whether he plans a repeat performance, the 30-year-old running back conceded he’s thought about it.
“I have visualized that a couple times,” Peterson said. “But I’m not making any predictions. I’m just going to go out there and what happens, happens.”
Peterson will be playing with a Vikings offensive line that’s been reconstructed after injuries to center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. The loss of those two players, and the move of guard Brandon Fusco from the right side of the line to the left, mean Peterson will have to travel behind a different set of blockers than the ones who helped him run for 2,097 yards in 2012.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Peterson gained 2,505 of his 3,363 yards in 2012 and 2013 on runs that went up the middle or to the right side of the line. Instead of Fusco and Loadholt to Sullivan’s right, however, the Vikings will have converted tackle Mike Harris and rookie T.J. Clemmings playing to the right of center Joe Berger.
Peterson said he’ll need to guard against hitting holes too fast or beating a pulling lineman to a gap, but he’s also told his linemen in practice that they need to be ready.
“I’m always pushing those guys to, ‘Hey, we need to go full speed because this is going to be what it is in the game, especially when I’m coming your way,” Peterson said. “I don’t want to run you over or find my face mask in your back. You’re not going to like that.”