Vikings brace for Adrian Peterson’s best shot in Lion’s return to Minnesota

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

For Adrian Peterson, returning to Minnesota will always be special. But at this point, it’s no longer novel. 

The longtime face of the Vikings franchise, this will be the future Hall of Fame running back’s third trip to Minnesota since he parted ways with the team in 2017. 

The first matchup was a perfectly setup narrative that failed to deliver, the second provided memories that will never be forgotten, and now, as a member of the Detroit Lions, Peterson is looking for something that’s eluded him since his exit — a victory over his former team. 

The working relationship in Minnesota ended, like so many do in the NFL, because of money. Peterson was coming off a year where injuries limited him to three games, was on the cusp of turning 32 years old and was owed $18 million the next year. 

“You know, after 10 years, of course it’s a sour taste that’s in your mouth,” Peterson said this week. … I think it was $17 million or right (around) there that I was owed that year, so I understand the business of it. It just didn’t work out.”

About two months after the Vikings declined the option on his contract, Peterson signed with the New Orleans Saints, who coincidentally opened that season against the Vikings on Monday Night Football. 

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But instead of a triumphant return, Peterson barely played, seeing nine snaps and six carries in a 29-19 loss. 

It wasn’t until two years later, when Peterson came back to Minnesota as a member of the Washington Football Team, that the fans got to properly pay their respects to the man who rushed for 11,747 and 97 touchdowns during a decade of dominance in the purple and gold. 

After racking up more than 100 yards from scrimmage in the 19-9 loss last season, Peterson was shown on the video board at the two-minute warning and Vikings fans gave him a lengthy standing ovation. 

“That’s going to be the one that’s everlasting,” Peterson said. “It was such a great experience. It was a blessed night. Nothing will be able to top that.”

Now in his 14th season, his first with Detroit, Peterson is struggling. After a strong start to the campaign, he’s seen his yards per carry decline in seven straight games. In last week’s loss to Indianapolis he had a day to forget, carrying the ball five times for five yards in a 41-21 loss. 

Still, throughout the year, he’s flashed plenty of life in those 35-year-old legs. And the Vikings expect they’ll be getting his best shot. 

“He still runs with the same violence — the way he hits the hole, the acceleration he has to the perimeter, all the things that he had when he was here,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Adrian wants to show everybody every week. That doesn’t change and probably a little bit more so when he’s playing the Vikings, yes.”

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Lions fans have grown used to seeing their team have strained relationships with all-time greats, most notably Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. The bridge with the latter remains unmended nearly five years after he retired. 

The same can’t be said with Peterson and the Vikings. Although there were some initial hard feelings, and there is certainly no plans to take it easy on them Sunday, the back is in a good place with his past, and future, with the franchise. 

“I feel like it will be a great relationship,” Peterson said. “I have nothing but love for (general manager) Rick Spielman, (team owners) the Wilfs. They’ve all done well by me, considering everything that we were able to go through during my time there.

“For me, it’s like when you have a family like that, you’re going to have disagreements,” Peterson continued. “You’re going to bump heads and you might not talk for a minute, but at the end of the day, you come back around and you love on each other. For me, that’s what it’s always going to be.”

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