Peterson’s compassion constantly on display
Not for himself, mind you. Instead, for his backup, Chester Taylor(notes), the intended receiver on the comeback-killing interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday that dropped the Vikings to 6-1 as they head into Sunday’s clash with the 4-2 Green Bay Packers. Taylor is a guy, in Peterson’s mind, who had done everything the right way.
In particular, Taylor has been the sage advisor to Peterson, a veteran who took the budding star under his wing rather than resent Peterson’s presence. Taylor helped Peterson understand the ins and outs of playing running back in the NFL, from handling failure and success to the importance of blocking in pass protection.
Thus, in the hours after Taylor let a pass from quarterback Brett Favre(notes) deflect off his hands for an interception in the Vikings’ 27-17 loss, Peterson sent a text message to Minnesota running backs coach Eric Bienemy.
“He wrote me and said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t come down hard on Chester because my soul hurts for losing that game and I know how Chester must feel,’ ” Bienemy said, recalling the message.
“We’re talking about a superstar athlete who cares so much, not just about his job and how hard he works, but about his teammates. He puts them ahead of himself. As a coach, when you have a guy like that, you realize how blessed and fortunate you are because he makes everything you’re trying to teach that much easier to do.”
That same message comes across clearly in Peterson’s recent DVD, “All Day with Adrian Peterson.” For a guy who is the best running back in the NFL and the No. 1 player in fantasy football, Peterson hasn’t let his ego reach that lofty pedestal.
As Peterson recently went through a series of phone calls to promote his DVD, his answers were never short of impolite. He never lost focus on who he was talking to or what he was being asked. He was intent on pleasing his audience, no matter how small, and completely professional.
That’s consistent with the message that plays out in the 45-minute video, a montage of scenes primarily from Peterson’s first two years in the NFL. Spliced in are a collection of highlights from his youth football days, high school and college. While the eye-catching scenes are the highlight-reel runs featuring his unusual combination of size and speed, the intriguing part is watching Peterson when he does nothing more than listen and learn to the likes of Bienemy.
“It’s all about doing whatever you can to get everything you can out of yourself,” Peterson said. “God blessed me with a lot of talent, so I can accomplish a lot and I have that confidence to pull it out of myself. Everyone has that ability and it’s up to you to do whatever you can to pull it out of yourself, to have the faith to work at whatever you’re doing.
“We get our faith tested all the time and it’s about whether you’re going to be resilient enough in whatever that situation is to make it work.”
Peterson is second in the NFL this season with 687 rushing yards and is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with eight. More important, the Vikings had scored at least 27 points in every game until Sunday’s defeat and are third in scoring at 29.4 points a game.
All of that while working in a new quarterback for the third consecutive season. Sure, it makes it easier that this time it’s a future Hall of Famer in Favre, but that’s still a lot of change at the most difficult position to play in the game, if not all of sports.
“The great part about it is that Brett makes it so easy. He’s always cracking jokes or we’re cracking on him,” said Peterson, whose locker is next to Favre’s. “Oh yeah, we’re always on him about his age. He’s got a little rocking chair in front of his locker, so we get on him. But he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever played with. He makes everybody comfortable.”
Still, what the Vikings have done since Favre arrived on Aug. 18 is relatively remarkable in that it has been nearly seamless in a sport that is fraught with complications. Aside from just playing, there’s navigating the locker room and all the egos that collide along the way.
That is if you allow the egos to collide. For Peterson, that hasn’t been an issue, even from the time he was drafted as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. As the video shows over time, Peterson has never let his confidence get in the way of the greater purpose. As a rookie, Peterson was once questioned by Bienemy about being late for practice.
The answer was reasonable: Peterson had to wait to get taped by the training staff. Still, Bienemy lectured Peterson on not making excuses, on taking care of small details beforehand, or going over practice routines before practice.
“The thing Adrian and I have is trust,” said Bienemy, who recruited the tailback when Bienemy was UCLA’s running backs coach. “That’s been developed over a lot of years of me sitting in his house when he was a kid, talking to his family, really learning to understand the young man. … He knows that when I tell him I’m his No. 1 fan, that I want him to succeed, I mean it. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to criticize him. He trusts that whatever I say or do, it’s to make him better.”
As Bienemy talked, Peterson simply listened. He never questioned, never shook his head in frustration, never looked away as if he resented the lesson. By Peterson’s second year in the league, he was regularly going over the practice routine and even talking about how much he looked forward to the work.
“Too bad this practice ain’t in pads,” Peterson said at one point.
“It’s all about being a professional and knowing how you have to do your business,” said Peterson, who had some amusing lessons along the way. One such time was when he ran out with the entire team rather than stay back to be introduced with the offense before the game. Taylor came up to him and asked, “What are you doing out here?”
Peterson ran back as the introductions were going on, a humorous moment for a rookie. His reaction after the fact is even better.
“That’s all part of the fun of it, stuff like that,” said Peterson, not taking himself too seriously. “We’re all out here having fun, but it’s still about being professional, learning your job and doing everything you can to get to that ultimate goal of the Super Bowl.
“Yeah, I’ve got some goals, liking getting 2,000 yards [in a season], but [the Super Bowl], that’s the No. 1 goal. That’s what it’s all about.”