Every year, a couple teams get the darkhorse label in the weeks leading up to the regular season. This year, the Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams. They enter year two of the Teddy Bridgewater era, which happens to coincide with year two of Norv Turner's tenure as offensive coordinator. Bridgewater has given them a new face of the franchise to build around as they prepare to move into a new stadium?
The old face of the franchise? Oh yea, Adrian Peterson. A year ago, Peterson played in the season opener, and subsequently sat out the rest of the season while dealing with child abuse allegations. It was a complicated path, but somehow AP has managed to work his way back onto the field in 2015. There was talk of releasing or trading him, but in the end, he ended up back with the Vikings. There is no way he will be the face of the franchise any more, but I'm sure the team will welcome back his talent.
Which brings up one of the big questions as the San Francisco 49ers prepare to face the Vikings. What exactly should we expect from Peterson given that he effectively missed a season of football? He played in the season opener, and then was not involved with the Vikings until the offseason workout program this past spring. Considering he is now 30, the question is all the more significant.
Back in 2011, Peterson tore his ACL near the end of the season. He returned at the start of the 2012 season and put together a historic season, rushing for 2,097 yards and winning MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Of course, that was three years ago. He rushed for 1,266 yards in 2013, and then sat out 2014.
I don't think anybody can say for certain what to expect out of AP. I spoke with our Vikings blog, Daily Norseman, and they are reporting he looked great in training camp. That obviously needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but if the explosiveness is there, there is no reason to think he won't be the same running back:
Judging from the reception that Peterson got from most fans at Training Camp in August, it's like last year never happened. He was still cheered like a hero and kids still screamed for his autograph after every practice. Judging from how he played at Training Camp in August, it's like he never missed all but one game last year. He was still the same explosive, impossibly athletic running back we've always known.
But of course not all Vikings fans are thrilled to have AP back, and Father Time still remains undefeated. Peterson got his usual preseason workload (exactly zero snaps) so Monday will mark one year and one week since we have seen him in game action. If it were anyone other than Peterson, you might expect some rust. Not so for this 30-year-old running back. I don't think fans will hold him to his usual preseason pledge of 2,500 yards, but the Vikings will need him to be very productive right away.
Jim Tomsula was asked about Peterson on Tuesday, and he gave a pretty respectful answer, which is not a surprise:
"Well, I mean, Adrian Peterson is always a challenge. If he puts on a helmet and a shirt, he's a challenge. But, I mean, [Vikings QB] Teddy Bridgewater is doing a nice job, tight end's doing a nice job they've got a nice tight end. The wide receivers are obviously a fast crew, good crew. You've got a mobile quarterback, so that's always extra time spent on how you want to attack that guy. And that offense is a [Vikings offensive coordinator] Norv Turner offense. So, you put all that together, obviously we've got a ton of respect for them. O-Line coach is a terrific coach and I'm sure that those guys are, we've got a lot of respect for them.
Ian Williams was also asked about it and kept it basic. He said everybody knows what AP brings to the table, and that he is one of the best running backs in the league. Williams was asked about getting more opportunities since this is more of a run heavy offense. He gave the usual cliches about being into it no matter what, but this is a big game for him right off the bat. When the 49ers face more pass heavy offenses, he is likely to play a little less. Starting off against AP is a good way to jump right into the deep end.