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WATFORD, England (AP) — For once, the Minnesota Vikings aren’t counting on Adrian Peterson to do it all.
Peterson, last season’s NFL MVP following his 2,097-yard rushing season, has been held in check through three games this season — all losses.
Now, facing a must-win game against the winless Pittsburgh Steelers in London, coach Leslie Frazier expects his offense to steady itself so Peterson can break loose.
“He doesn’t have to score every time he touches the ball,” Frazier said Wednesday at the Vikings base outside London. “He’s a great, great player. We all know that. But he doesn’t have to feel like he has to carry the whole team.”
Peterson admits he needs to show more patience, as defenses have packed the box to keep him bottled up.
“People get the misconception that I’m trying to do too much. Every touch I want to get into the end zone,” Peterson said. “That’s just me playing football.”
The return of fullback Jerome Felton from a three-game suspension will also lift some of the responsibility from Peterson.
“Now I can say there is some type of confidence I feel just knowing what type of guy he is, knowing his approach and his mentality,” said Peterson, who has rushed for 281 yards on 69 carries this season. “He’s a guy I can count on. It feels good to have him back.”
Peterson has averaged under 3 yards per carry since opening with a 78-yard touchdown run on the first snap of the Vikings season.
“We play well off each other,” Felton said. “It’s exciting to be back.”
Felton’s return could also unburden an ailing offensive line, which allowed six sacks in Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Christian Ponder was nursing sore ribs after taking a beating in the defeat but expects to play Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
“We’ve just got to keep going, to keep grinding, to keep pounding,” Peterson said. “I have faith that our running game is going to open up and explode.”
Despite the sense of urgency that has accompanied Minnesota on its overseas trip, the team was in high spirits on its first day of practice in the U.K. — an unseasonably warm day.
The Vikings are the designated home team for Sunday’s game. The players have managed to enjoy some of the local flavors, although Frazier insists the team is solely focused on kick-starting its season.
Peterson was all smiles while fielding questions about a future acting career that included talk about his ability to play James Bond. Defensive end Jared Allen escaped the hotel to enjoy a plate of bangers and mash — a British dish of sausages and mashed potatoes.
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“It was one of the best I ever had,” Allen said.