MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will get fullback Jerome Felton back from a three-game suspension this week, which could provide a major jolt to their running game. Adrian Peterson averaged 6.9 yards per carry with Felton on the field last season, 4.6 yards per carry without him and only 4.1 in the first three games this season in his absence. Felton sat out while he was disciplined for a drunken-driving charge that came in the spring of 2012 and was later reduced to reckless driving.
"This has definitely been one of the more frustrating periods of my life, just watching these last three weeks," Felton said. "Obviously it's not just me coming back that's going to make the running game do what it needs to do, but I definitely think I can help and contribute."
Felton earned a Pro Bowl berth as he paved the way for Peterson's 2,097-yard season in 2012, and at the start of this season, Peterson admitted he's been trying to turn too many of his runs into big gains, rather than hitting the holes that are there. But the Vikings' offensive line has struggled, too, and with Felton there to clear the way for Peterson, things might get simpler for the reigning NFL MVP.
"I think if you look back, he's probably on course with what he did the first three games last year," Felton said. "There's a lot expected out of him, and that's a tough spot sometimes. ... I think there's some things I bring to the game. It's on me from a physical standpoint to be ready to go. There's no easing-in period now.
Felton said he's 100 percent recovered from the emergency appendectomy he had during training camp, and it stands to reason the Vikings will turn most of the lead blocking responsibilities back to him. But to make room for him, they put fullback Zach Line -- an undrafted free agent who made the team in one of the better stories of Vikings camp -- on injured reserve.
Line, who scored a 61-yard touchdown on his first touch of the preseason, had gotten some work as a lead blocker in Felton's absence, but it seemed likely the Vikings would have to take him off their active roster once Felton came back, though coach Leslie Frazier never specifically said Line was injured. Sports Illustrated has been chronicling Line's rookie season, and he told the magazine on Monday that he had a knee injury during Sunday's game, though he didn't miss any time. Still, the timing of the injury is curious, to say the least. It's reminiscent of what happened with cornerback Bobby Felder, who was put on IR at the end of the preseason following an ankle sprain in the Vikings' final preseason game.
Obviously, the Vikings can retain the rights of both players if they're on injured reserve, and the team might have more use for both of them next year. It's questionable whether either injury would have kept Felder or Line out for the year, but both did have an injury, according to the Vikings, and they're both done playing for the season.