Adrian Peterson chooses simpler route

July, 31, 2010
7/31/10
11:00
AM ET
After months of public discussion about his fumbling problems, here's what Adrian Peterson came up with:
It's all mental. Basically, it's that simple. Just mentally being aware of my surroundings at all times. Knowing guys are definitely throwing those extra punches to knock it out at all times. So just mentally knowing that I have it high and tight at all times.

In an interview with reporters after the Minnesota Vikings' opening practice of training camp, Peterson said it comes down to holding the ball "high and tight." He added: "When I was holding it low, it gives those guys that space to be able to punch up and knock the ball out at times. Bring it up high. Keep it high and tight. Just getting back to the way it's taught and the way you're supposed to carry the ball. It's pretty simple."

I took exceeding care to bring you the preceding three paragraphs without bias or slant. We've questioned Peterson's approach to the offseason a few times, and it's only fair to give him the opportunity to expound fully on his plan for addressing this issue.

Now, then.

The sympathetic side of me wants to commend Peterson for continuing to compartmentalize the issue and not allow it to consume him. As coach Brad Childress told reporters Friday, Peterson is still a "hell of a talent" who has had "three exceptional years," and that even the best talents still have areas for improvement.

The other side, however, remembers what we discussed in the hours after his disastrous NFC Championship Game. (Notice how similar Peterson's quotes were then.)

Peterson has said often that obsessing over fumbles only creates a compounding effect. But I think he has reached the point where he needs to consider a fundamental intervention this offseason to address the issue.

"With my running style," he said, "it will be something I think about as far as protecting and keeping the ball high. The way I run, the ball kind of gets low. I've got to be more cautious of that: Keeping the ball high. That will be something I'm more conscious of in the offseason."

So here's the reality: Peterson has changed nothing about his approach other than to recommit himself to the points he has always held dear. It's clear he has eschewed a more dramatic intervention along the lines of what New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin effected with tailback Tiki Barber several years ago.

I would have favored the latter -- 20 fumbles in three seasons is enough for me -- but I'm willing to give him the chance to take the "simpler" route.

Because it's true: Carrying the ball "high and tight" will prevent most fumbles. Should we consider it reasonable that a running back can suddenly increase his awareness of something that is drilled from the lowest levels of football? Or did he need to fundamentally change the way he carries the ball to solve this problem? For now, let's give Peterson the benefit of the doubt. We'll find out if he's right soon enough.

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