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Adrian Peterson On Cardinals' Mind

Posted Dec 8, 2015

Vikings star running back envisioned playing for Cards, now coming in as opponent

The Cardinals have to find a way to clamp down on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson Thursday night.

If Adrian Peterson had his way, an interview with the Arizona media on Tuesday may not have been on conference call, but at a locker inside the Cardinals training facility.

The star running back had a tense relationship with the Vikings this offseason, stemming from their treatment of him following his 15-game absence last year following a child abuse charge. Peterson didn’t feel like the organization had his back, and he tried his best to force a trade – with the Cardinals among his preferred destinations.

“When I was going through that process, of course Arizona was a place that grabbed my attention,” Peterson said Tuesday, “especially with the type of season they had last year and the warm weather.”

Peterson is close friends with Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a player he idolized as a high schooler. He said he even envisioned the pair playing together, but while that thought danced in his head, Peterson didn’t have much recourse. The Vikings had him under contract and remained steadfast in keeping their prized possession.

“At the end of the day, I knew that I would be here in Minnesota when it came down to it,” Peterson said.

As “Thursday Night Football” approaches, the Cardinals aren’t daydreaming about Peterson in red because they’re spending every spare minute devising ways to stop him. The Vikings are coming in for a crucial NFC clash, and even at age 30, Peterson remains the most feared running back in the NFL.

He leads the league with 1,182 rushing yards and averages a sparkling 4.8 yards per carry. Peterson accounts for 36 percent of the Minnesota offensive production, easily the highest percentage in the league.

“He’s got the spin moves and he’ll stop on a dime and break it back,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He sits back about eight-and-a-half yards deep, so he can go from D-gap to D-gap at any time. He’s a threat every time he touches it.”

Arians was asked if Peterson can be effective against eight defenders in the box.

“He’s breaking nine-man fronts,” Arians said. “One guy in a gap doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to tackle him.”

Peterson had one of the worst games of his career in last week’s 38-7 blowout loss to the Seahawks, finishing with only eight carries for 18 yards. He is unique, though, in that even the stiffest of fronts usually don’t deter him.

In his career against top-5 rush defenses, Peterson has averaged 21 carries for 108.6 yards per game with 15 touchdowns, per NFL Network research.  The Cardinals sit fourth in the league in rush defense, allowing only 89.0 yards per game.

“Watching film on him, he’s still that guy out of Oklahoma,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “Still running over guys and stiff-arming the other ones. We’ve definitely got to swarm-tackle this fool.”

“I’ve kind of been waiting to play this guy for a long time,” Minter added. “You grow up looking up to him. To finally be able to hit him a little bit is kind of surreal.”

The Cardinals’ worst performance against the run this season came in a Week 4 loss to the Rams, when Todd Gurley had 144 yards after halftime. They rectified that last week, holding him to 41 yards on eight carries and the Rams to 66 as a team.

Arians raved about the work of the front seven in that victory, as the defensive line and linebackers consistently flew into the backfield and made plays. Four days later, they’ll get an even bigger challenge.

“Todd’s going to be a great player,” Arians said, “but Adrian is a great player.”



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