Running back Adrian Peterson (virtually) met with Detroit media on Thursday for the first time since signing with the team earlier this week. Since the call bounced around to a quite a few different topics, we thought it might be better to provide some bite-sized takeaways.
Here are the five things we found most interesting from Peterson’s call:
► Everyone, including Peterson, continues to be coy about his role for the season-opener this Sunday. That despite reports the team potentially used a starting job as a carrot while courting him as a free agent.
Peterson said two or three teams showed interest after he was released by Washington, but the biggest factor that lured him to Detroit was his familiarity with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who served as Peterson’s OC the first four years of his career.
Asked how quickly Bevell’s playbook was coming back to him, Peterson noted it has evolved quite a bit in the years since the two last worked together.
“It’s definitely more advanced, more diverse,” Peterson said. “The playbook is, it’s just a lot different. I was there in 2007, think for like four years, so it’s been a minute ago. Obviously, he’s won a Super Bowl. He’s accomplished a lot as an offensive coordinator through that time. He has grown as an offensive coordinator. I would say about 80 percent, maybe about 85 percent of it has changed. A lot of it is just like the terminology. Some of the terminology is the same, so I’m able to understand it. Some of it is totally different. But I think the way he’s using the back is a lot different than it was back in Minnesota as well.”
As the team prepares for Chicago on Sunday, Peterson said he’s been given approximately 80 plays to focus on while getting up to speed.
► Peterson’s recall of specific games and plays from more than a decade ago is quite impressive. He explained, in detail, multiple snaps from his first game against Chicago in October 2007. Included in that conversation was his favorite play, a kickoff return.
“The number one thing I remember is I was playing special teams my rookie year,” Peterson said. “I went in because we needed a big play and I went in on kickoff return and I almost took it to the house. I think I ran for 60, 65 yards or something like that. I remember that play the most because we were able to get in field-goal position and put ourselves in position to kick the game-winning field goal. That pretty much capped off that day for me.”
Peterson was dominant that day, rushing for 224 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. His 361 all-purpose yards ranks as the third-most in a game in NFL history.
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He also mentioned he experienced his welcome-to-the-NFL moment in that contest.
“I do remember my welcome-to-the-league hit and it was from (Brian) Urlacher and (Lance) Briggs,” Peterson said. “They were kind of talking a little trash to me on one play. It was an inside zone play and I tried to bounce it out and they came down pursuing on me and laid the wood on me pretty good, laid the hammer down on me. I remember just getting up, smiling and running back to the huddle. But that kind of got me wired up a little bit, because these were guys that obviously I looked up to and was excited to play.”
As far as his favorite memory of playing the Lions, Peterson wasn’t sure of the year (it was 2013), but he recalled his game-opening, 78-yard touchdown run.
“I remember that play like it was yesterday, I just don’t remember the year,” Peterson said. “I remember just hitting the hole and bam, one juke. I stuck my left foot into the ground and got the free safety or linebacker to overflow and pshhhh, I was off to the races and took it to the crib.”
No, it wasn’t the free safety or a linebacker, it was rookie cornerback Darius Slay, who had his ankles broken by Peterson on that romp. The Lions actually came back to win that game, 34-24, impressively limiting Peterson to 15 yards on 17 carries the rest of the day.
► Early in the call, Peterson talked about his excitement to return to the NFC North, especially the prospect of playing the Vikings twice. What’s wild is the Lions actually play all four of Peterson’s former teams this season, with matchups against New Orleans, Arizona and Washington on the docket, as well.
Asked if that played any role in his decision to sign with the Lions, Peterson laughed and said, “No, I’m not that salty.”
► Peterson enters this season No. 5 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. The next man up on his climb through the record books is Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who holds a 1,053-yard edge.
It wasn’t until after he agreed with the Lions that Peterson fully realized the symbolism of his continued pursuit of NFL history. And while it might seem like a long shot, the ever-confident back has his eyes set on catching Sanders this year.
“I knew I was somewhat close, but I didn’t realize it was just like a little 1,000 yards because I wasn’t in that mind frame, to be honest with you,” Peterson said. “It was kind of ironic that once that got brought to my attention that, hey, now I’m playing Detroit and God’s will stay healthy, I will have the opportunity to pass him this year. Man. It’s kind of funny how things work themselves out.”
Now might be a good time to mention no Lions running back has rushed for more than 1,053 yards since Kevin Jones, way back in 2004.
► Peterson comes to Detroit with a fashionable winter coat in tow. Apparently he had a deal with apparel company Starter last season, and part of that pact involved him requesting, and acquiring a replica of the Lions jacket Eddie Murphy wore in “Beverly Hills Cop.”
“They found it for me, so now I got it hanging up in my locker,” Peterson said. “Taking it as the weather gets a little cold here, I’ll be able to sport that. There’s been a lot of things I’ve been kind of thinking about, just like, man, I never thought when I got that jacket last year that I would be standing here with the Lions behind me, with the Lions shirt on, playing for the Lions. But, you know, sometimes your journey goes on a different path and for me, I’m just going to make the best of it and do my best to help bring a championship to Detroit.”