EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Adrian Peterson’s fumbling was one of the few problems the Minnesota Vikings had last season.
These days, they might wish their All-Pro running back’s ball security was the biggest issue to deal with. Thanks to Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Randy Moss and all the other cast members in this year’s drama, Peterson has been in the background.
Perhaps, then, his performance has gone unfairly unnoticed this fall after all the heat he took for leading the league in fumbles over his first three seasons. Other than a sloppy handoff earlier this year that led to a lost fumble charged to Favre, Peterson has not turned the ball over once.
He has touched the ball 249 times — rushing attempts plus receptions — without a fumble, lost or recovered.
“Just keeping it high and tight,” Peterson said. “Just watching film from last year, I’ve seen where I was in situations where I was being too careless with the ball: scratching for extra yards and having the ball away from my body, leaving opportunities for guys to punch it and rake it out.”
Peterson’s fumble-free streak isn’t exceptional. According to sports researcher STATS LLC, he ranks 28th on the active list with 259 consecutive regular-season touches from the line of scrimmage without a lost fumble. Tony Gonzalez, a tight end, is at 942. Running back Thomas Jones is next at 803.
“It may sound crazy, but I don’t think there is as much focus on it this year,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “Sometimes you can put too much focus on something and it kind of goes crazy, but he’s done a great job of protecting it and we focus on it each and every day. I think he’s changed the way that he’s practiced, and he did work to be able to correct that problem.
“He’s done a nice job with it.”
This week, Peterson is just trying to get healthy. He has another streak on the line, too: 51 consecutive games played, including the postseason, dating to his rookie year in 2007. He tore the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee and missed two games then. This time, it’s a sprained right ankle he suffered last week against Washington.
“The pain has went away, and the flexibility is getting back to where it needs to be,” Peterson said. “It’s feeling good.”
He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, but the plan is to participate Friday. His hope, of course, is to play against Buffalo on Sunday.
“I know my training staff will make sure I’ll be ready to go,” Peterson said. “And I know my body better than anybody else, so if I can go I’ll definitely be going.”
He tried to persuade the team to let him back in the game last week, even with pain he described as throbbing, but Peterson insisted he’ll be smart about not pushing too hard.
The Bills are better off believing he’ll make it.
“If you go in there not expecting it and he shows up, you’re in trouble,” coach Chan Gailey said. “You better go in there with everything ready to try to stop him.”
Though they’ve had a few games where they’ve stopped the ground attack with some success, the Bills are last in the NFL with an average of 167.4 yards rushing per game allowed. Five times, they’ve surrendered 200 yards or more.
Peterson, who passed the 1,000 yard mark for the fourth straight season last week, would love to get an opportunity to play against this group.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “Even though he’s a little banged up he’s still a prime-time player. Any time he gets the ball he can take it.”
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