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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Adrian Peterson: 'Trust me, I'm watching'

By Ben Goessling

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Before the Minnesota Vikings fired Leslie Frazier on Dec. 30, there might not have been any player more outspoken in his desire for Frazier to stay than running back Adrian Peterson. The 2012 NFL MVP said after both of the Vikings' last two games that he wanted Frazier back as the coach, adding he planned to talk to ownership about his desire for Frazier to remain in charge.

Peterson got a chance to do that in a brief conversation before Frazier was fired, he told ESPN.com on Wednesday, but he quickly knew his input wasn't going to steer the Vikings' decision-makers in a different direction. Now that Peterson's had a chance to process the Vikings' decision to fire Frazier -- whom he called "a guy I trusted, a guy I believed in," -- the running back said he's moving forward with cautious optimism after the Vikings' decision to hire former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is anxious to see how Mike Zimmer will handle the Vikings offense.
"Trust me, I'm watching. I'm watching to see exactly what we're doing, just to see exactly what direction we're headed in," Peterson said. "I've been keeping my eyes open with the head coach; I knew he was probably the guy they were going to go with. It wasn't too much of a surprise. I've been watching for the coordinators -- are they going to keep Bill Musgrave around or what direction they're going to go with. With a new coach, that's when things start happening, too, that's all part of the process.”

The running back hadn't talked to Zimmer as of Wednesday afternoon, but expected he would be in touch with the new coach shortly. He met one-on-one with general manager Rick Spielman after Frazier was fired, as many players did, to give him an idea of what he wanted to see from a new coach. But Peterson -- who'd been stunned the offseason before by the Vikings' decision to trade receiver Percy Harvin -- maintained a sober understanding of the business side of things.

"I've seen players come in with the Vikings -- guys I figured I'd probably play with until I finished playing with the Vikings -- and they're gone," Peterson said. "At first, it was, ‘How could they let that person go?' It didn't really take me too long to kind of get over it and accept it for what it was. He (Frazier) is out, so we start a new chapter. My personal feelings, I didn't let it get in the way with business.”

Now that Zimmer is in place, Peterson said he'll anxiously await news about what the Vikings will do on offense. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the team has received permission to talk with Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and Zimmer has been linked to offensive coordinator candidates like former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey, former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.

Whatever the Vikings do, Peterson said, he wants to see a game plan that will keep defenses honest. The Vikings have seen eight men or more in the box on 383 snaps during the last two seasons -- the second-most in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information -- as teams have lined up to stop Peterson, effectively daring the Vikings' woeful passing game to beat them.

"When I play offense, I want to be able to have you on your toes, where you're not really expecting what's coming," Peterson said. "Being versatile offensively [is the biggest thing I'm looking for]."

Peterson called Musgrave a "good guy, a great mind," but said he hadn't given much thought to whether Zimmer would keep Musgrave on the staff.

The running back, who carried just 18 times in the Vikings' last four games, was replaced on the Pro Bowl roster by Eddie Lacy on Wednesday. He made the decision to let his body heal up after spraining his right foot and straining his groin during the 2013 season, but one thing in particular made it hard to skip the Pro Bowl -- the possibility that Deion Sanders might play.

"That's the only thing I was going to regret," he said. "Not the cash, not winning the Pro Bowl, not winning MVP. That's the only thing I was going to regret -- not getting the chance to line up against Deion."