EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- After fumbling for the eighth time this season, and losing his fourth fumble of the year to set up the Seahawks' go-ahead field goal on Sunday, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said cutting down on his fumbles will be his top priority in the offseason.
Peterson lost the ball while trying to fight for extra yards on an 8-yard reception in the fourth quarter Sunday. The Vikings had a 9-7 lead over the Seahawks in the NFC wild-card game, and Peterson had already gained a first down, but when he tried to push forward, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor popped the ball out, and the turnover set up Steven Hauschka's decisive field goal.
"The first thing that comes to mind is making sure that I put emphasis on protecting the ball. That's going to be my number one objective going into this offseason," Peterson said. "Because you take things for granted -- I've joked around and said, 'Yeah I done put the ball on the turf but how many have I lost? There's guys that have lost more fumbles than me this year.' But when it comes back and it bites you in this type of way, it's something I want to put an emphasis on for this offseason. So that's going to be the main thing overall, just being a better player and a better fit for this offense, as well."
The NFL's leading rusher in 2015, Peterson carried a league-high 327 times in the regular season but caught just 30 passes for a team that said it wanted to convert some of Peterson's carries to catches in an effort to reduce the wear and tear on the 30-year-old. Peterson was targeted only 36 times, fewer than any season except 2007 (his rookie year) and 2011 (when he missed four game, and he frequently came out of the game in passing situations for Jerick McKinnon or Matt Asiata.
"You look at the young guys, [like] Jerick, he comes in a lot on third down and he presents a different piece to our offense, running routes and things like that," Peterson said. "I envision myself doing things like that at a different level. ... When I look back overall, there's so much more that I want to be involved in. I think I have to take it upon myself going into my third year in this offense -- the second actually being around -- there's a lot I have to take on to contribute."
Peterson had surgery on a sports hernia after his MVP season in 2012, and needed groin surgery after 2013. But after playing just one game last season and sitting out 15 in the wake of his indictment on child injury charges last September, Peterson returned fresher this season, and didn't anticipate he'd need any surgery this offseason.
"That's one thing I can take coming out: body is healthy," he said. "There's little nags and nicks here and there, but just the rest will heal those things."