MINNEAPOLIS—Like a lot of NFL veterans on teams that travel out-of-town to start summer practices, Adrian Peterson’s enthusiasm for the approaching season often has been temporarily dampened by the drive to training camp.
Arrival at the familiar site of dorm room life, two-a-day workouts, and overall drudgery, however brief, can prompt unpleasant feelings.
But this time, vibes around the Minnesota Vikings might be good enough to make even a player with 10 years of experience embrace the trip.
“I’m excited as far as what we have and the vision that we have for this season,” Peterson said.
“So that makes things better,” he noted. “It’ll make it a lot better going into camp this year.”
The Vikings will report to Minnesota State University on July 28, bringing expectations of post-season success as high as they’ve been since 2010.
That became an ugly year for the Vikings. But the picture for 2016 has a pretty frame—and now it’s time to fill in the illustration.
Peterson sounded as resolute as ever when he declared recently the Vikings should be seriously considered as a Super Bowl contender.
They’re coming off an NFC North title—their first since 2009.
“We have the pieces and what it takes to accomplish that. So there’s nothing wrong with saying it,” Peterson noted last month.
“If any other guy on this team doesn’t feel that way, then we need to be trading him and bringing somebody in that feels that way, as well.”
The timing is right for Peterson, who rushed for a league-high 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns last season before turning 31 in March.
His contract will carry an $18-million salary cap hit in 2017, so his future with the Vikings beyond this upcoming season is unclear.
“I don’t see an end in my future anywhere soon but, of course, I know I’m coming around the last lap,” Peterson admitted.
“And I’m itching to get a couple before I’m done playing this game,” added Peterson, referring to a championship the franchise has chased unsuccessfully since its inception in 1961.
Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished in the bottom third of the NFL in most quarterback categories in 2015, and his accuracy on deep throws was perhaps the most problematic.
He connected on just 11-of-42 passes that travelled 21-plus yards in the air, according to STATS research.
For Bridgewater to take a meaningful step forward in Year 3, and for the Vikings’ offence to improve upon its 29th-place ranking in total yards last season, he’ll have to hit more long targets.
Drafting Laquon Treadwell in the first round ought to be a boon for Bridgewater.
“He wins games, and to me that’s the most important thing,” said coach Mike Zimmer.
“There’s a lot more to playing quarterback than just throwing the ball through the wall.”
For all of the highlights from last season, the most memorable moment was the improbable miss by Blair Walsh of a 27-yard field goal that would have given the Vikings a victory over Seattle in a frigid first-round game in the playoffs.
Walsh followed an off-year in 2014 with a solid regular season in 2015.
But a strong start to 2016 would go a long way toward ensuring he’s not negatively affected by that heartbreaking shank.
Meanwhile, the ship-shaped, glass-fronted $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium soon will be unveiled, with the Vikings set for their first performance there Aug. 28 for an exhibition game against San Diego.
Their regular-season home-opener goes Sept. 18 against rival Green Bay.