Adrian Peterson’s fumbling not behind him
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Adrian Peterson used to fumble so much, his penchant for putting the ball on the ground became fodder for The Onion.In a June 2010 story, the satirical newspaper quipped, "In an effort to preserve the running back's aggress...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Adrian Peterson used to fumble so much, his penchant for putting the ball on the ground became fodder for The Onion.
In a June 2010 story, the satirical newspaper quipped, “In an effort to preserve the running back’s aggressive fumbling style, Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress announced Monday that the training staff would not attempt to alter Adrian Peterson’s two-point technique for loosely carrying the football.”
The previous two seasons, Peterson led all NFL running backs in fumbles (16) and fumbles lost (10) in 32 games.
He has gotten better, fumbling 11 times - losing six - in 58 games from 2010-14, but his troubles are not completely behind him.
Although Peterson leads the NFL with 1,251 yards rushing, he has fumbled seven times this season, most among running backs, and lost three, tied for third.
The Vikings have dropped three of their past four games, and Peterson has had a key lost fumble in two of the defeats. He lost one early in the fourth quarter of a 30-13 setback to Green Bay on Nov. 22, when the Vikings were still in the game, and one in the third quarter of a 23-20 loss Dec. 10 at Arizona.
“Of course, putting the ball on the ground is not something that you want; you want to protect the ball,” the nine-year veteran said Thursday. “And I always go into the game, what’s the most important thing? To me, in my mind, it’s ball security. Unfortunately, things happen.”
Peterson’s fumbling numbers could be even worse. He lost a fumble in a Sept. 20 home game against Detroit nullified by a penalty, and in an Oct. 25 game at Detroit, a botched handoff was ruled a fumble by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Peterson’s seven fumbles are his most since he had seven in 2009, and he’s approaching his career high of nine in 2008. His three lost fumbles are half his career-high six in 2009.
“He’s got to hold onto the ball,” said Chuck Foreman, a Vikings running back from 1973-79. “He’s got to find a way to correct it. I’m not trying to criticize him, but when you run for all those yards and you’re putting the ball on the ground, that negates those yards.’’
Foreman led the NFL with 12 fumbles in 1975. He made adjustments, and that number dropped to seven in 1976.
“When you run into traffic, you’ve got to protect it,” Foreman said. “I had to just learn that when I was getting ready to be tackled to just bring it in.”
Peterson learned more about ball protection after fumble problems made him a marked man early in his NFL career.
“A lot of guys, they kind of set in their mind that they’re going to try to go for the ball instead of actually tackling you,” Peterson said. “Because I kind of sit back and watch backs around the league, and it’s not that often that you see guys just really going for the ball. … But I guess it’s in their mind when they play me, one way I guess to attempt to slow me down is to try to take the ball.”
Peterson said he must continue to remain “conscious of that,” and that he’s “definitely putting more emphasis on securing the ball.”
Coach Mike Zimmer said he talks to Peterson “all the time” about avoiding fumbles. Zimmer said emphasis sometimes includes “getting a second hand on” the ball.
Peterson’s turnover against Green Bay came when he was hit while making a spin move. Against the Cardinals, Peterson tried to flip the ball to wide receiver Mike Wallace on a reverse even though he was in the grasp of defensive end Josh Mauro.
“That’s one that I wish I could have back,” Peterson said. “It was actually just a poor decision by me. It was one I should have just took for a loss.”
Wallace said Peterson was down after that fumble. The score was tied 10-10, and the Vikings had moved to Arizona’s 35-yard line.
“It was just an unfortunate play,” Wallace said. “He came up and said, ‘My bad.’ But we understood. It was cool. You move on to the next play.”