Peterson delivers on promise
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Adrian Peterson has largely let his play do the talking for him during his first four seasons in the league.
With his Minnesota Vikings off to an 0-4 start, something had to change.
Peterson promised to be a more vocal leader in an effort to get the team turned around, and he delivered on that in a 34-10 victory over Arizona on Sunday.
The $36 million man put his mouth where his money is.
Peterson didn't just rush for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He delivered a couple of pep talks to his offense in the second half to make sure they didn't give another big lead away.
"I just came out with the mindset of, by any means, get it done," Peterson said. "Do your part. And that's the message I told the guys up front. 'Do your part, get it done. Do it for 60 minutes until the whistle blows.'"
Coach Leslie Frazier said he planned to pull the offensive line aside late in the fourth quarter to urge them to finish the game strong and not let the Cardinals get any hope of getting back in the game after falling behind 28-0 in the first quarter.
That's when Peterson stepped in.
"He said, 'Coach I got it. Let me talk to them. I'll handle it,'" Frazier said. "I was like, 'Whoa, this is our star player stepping up in a leadership role and saying, 'I'll handle it. Let me handle it.'"
For the first time all season, the Vikings closed a game out, getting Frazier his first victory as the permanent head coach in Minnesota and the team its first win of the season -- one it desperately needed. The Vikings (1-4) play at Chicago on Sunday night and then host Green Bay, two must-wins if they have any hope of being a factor in the NFC North.
The sense of urgency was evident in Peterson all week. After the Vikings' fourth straight defeat to start the season -- a woeful effort in Kansas City -- Peterson vowed to take a more active role in the locker room.
For all the force and ferocity he plays with on the field, Peterson has been quiet and humble in the locker room. He's a favorite among teammates and one of the league's shining stars, but Peterson deferred to more established veterans such as Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen and Brett Favre when it came to locker room leadership.
He signed a huge contract extension in the offseason, and now in the middle of his fifth season, it appears that Peterson has become more comfortable voicing his opinion.
"We did what we have been preaching and I sensed it," Peterson said. "I sensed it in all phases, defensively, offensively, special teams -- the guys came out ready to play, came out with the mindset of finishing four quarters. I feel like when we do that as a team, we can't be stopped."
Peterson also continued to set an example on the field. He ripped off three touchdowns in the first quarter against the Cardinals, scoring on runs of 4, 24 and 14 yards to get the Vikings off on the right foot. He twice ran over rookie defensive back Patrick Peterson near the goal line to set the tone early.
Only four other players have scored three TDs in the first quarter of a game in league history -- Eric Dickerson in 1988, James Stewart in 1997, and Stephen Davis and Tim Biakabutuka in 1999.
"When you've got a running back like 2-8," receiver Percy Harvin said, "just give him a little something and he'll make the most of it."
Leadership in the locker room hasn't been an issue in Minnesota, where Allen, Hutchinson, Kevin Williams and E.J. Henderson have formed a solid front in delivering Frazier's message to the rank and file and keeping the team together during the difficult start.
But Frazier was elated to see the face of the franchise assume a bigger role in that area as well.
The day after Bernard Berrian was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Monday the wide receiver will be back in the rotation this week for playing time.
"I don't foresee any future problems. I really expect him to play at a high level for us and play well," Frazier said.
Berrian was on the inactive list for Sunday's victory over Arizona for a disciplinary reason that Frazier declined to specify. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the situation, reported Berrian was punished for missing two team meetings the day before the game. Frazier wouldn't confirm that Monday.
"He understands what we have to get done and what's required of him, like all of our guys do. Going forward, we've just got to do the right things," Frazier said.
Frazier said he believes Berrian's mind is in the right place and that he's still counting on him to contribute.
"He wants to help this football team win. We're going to give him every opportunity to help this football team win," Frazier said.
Berrian was Minnesota's big free agent addition when he signed for $16 million guaranteed in 2008, and he played up to his billing that year with eight touchdowns, including one punt return for a score, and 964 yards receiving. His average of 20-plus yards per catch led the NFL.
But he never connected with Brett Favre and after two unproductive seasons, Berrian was a candidate to be released this summer. Instead, his contract was cut, with his 2011 base salary reduced from $3.9 million to $1.9 million. He has two receptions for 37 yards and no touchdowns this year. Since the NFC championship game following the 2009 season, Berrian hasn't scored and has had only one game with more than five catches and 30 yards.
Devin Aromashodu has assumed some of Berrian's role as the deep receiver and has 115 yards and a score over the last two games. Michael Jenkins has been quarterback Donovan McNabb's favorite and most reliable target in a passing attack that has lacked both punch and rhythm.
"We don't want to shortchange Devin. He's doing some good things, but we're counting on Bernard to step up and play well for us," Frazier said.
The Vikings play Sunday at Chicago, Berrian's former team. He was unavailable for comment in the locker room when it was open to reporters Monday.