Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell isn’t exactly sure what to expect from Adrian Peterson.
The Lions haven’t had their first practice of the season. And it’s been nine years since Bevell was calling plays for Peterson out of the Minnesota Vikings’ backfield.
But Bevell knows this. Peterson he still has freakishly impressive ability.
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That’s why Bevell wasn’t ready to make grand pronouncements about Peterson’s role on Tuesday. But he also wasn’t ready to temper expectations either for a 35-year-old sure-fire Hall-of-Famer coming off rushing for 1,940 yards and 13 touchdowns the past two seasons with Washington.
“Um, I don’t know yet,” Bevell said. “We haven’t even had him on the field. We’ve had one walk-through I think since he’s been here.
“The guy really is a freak of nature in terms of his athletic ability and the way he’s built and what his body can handle. I think he’s already proved that even last year, rushing for almost 1,000 yards last year. I’m not sure that we’re setting those expectations just yet.”
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The Lions will hit the practice field Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s season opener against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Bevell expects to learn more about Peterson’s status as the week progresses.
“Again, we’re excited to have him but we’ve got to see how this all shakes out,” he said. “We want to get a feel for how quickly he can pick up some of the offense, what we’re going to be able to do with him, see where he is at physically and skill-wise. But from all the indications (we) have, 900 yards (last year) is nothing to shake a stick at.”
Beyond what Peterson can do and how quickly he can pick up the Lions’ offense, there’s also the matter of spreading the workload with him and Kerryon Johnson, who was listed as the starter when the team released its first depth chart of the season.
“We’ll see how that all ends up shaking out,” Bevell said. “We love what Kerryon’s done for us. I was so excited for Kerryon last year, just the tenacity or the determination he showed to come back (from a knee injury) at the end of the year, I thought that was something special. I thought that showed a lot about what he’s got inside of him and the makeup that he has. I think it said a lot to his teammates. It certainly said a lot to me.
“So I’m excited for what Kerryon’s been doing for us. But we know it’s a physical game and we’ll be able to share those carries. So there’ll be plenty of carries to go around.”
One important aspect that might contribute to Peterson seeing more playing time sooner is his familiarity with Bevell and offensive line coach Hank Fraley. Bevell was Peterson’s offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-10 and Fraley was an assistant offensive line coach with the Vikings from 2014-16.
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“I think it does help that we’re familiar with him,” Bevell said. “ … We will have things dialed up for him. We kind of know what he does well. But again, it’s just how fast can we get him dialed in on the offense, on the verbiage? The terms are different than he’s been using the last few years. So how fast can we get him dialed in and how big can that package be? Does it have to be real concise and we’re just going to do a few things? Or how outstanding is his recall and what are we going to be able to do?
“So as the week goes on we’ll be able to prepare and see that. I think it does help that it’s a game-plan week because you don’t have this full menu that you normally do during training camp. So there’s specific things that we’ll do. So I don’t have any reason to believe that he won’t be able to do all the things that we’re asking him to do. And then kind of let it go, see how it shakes out.”
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