Norv Turner is used to playing his former teams, and he’ll get a chance to scratch another one off the list Sunday when the San Diego Chargers come to TCF Bank Stadium.
The former San Diego head coach is in his second year as the Vikings offensive coordinator after a one-year run as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator following six seasons leading the Chargers.
“I’ve coached 10 different places, a couple different places twice, so you kind of get used to it,” Turner said Thursday. “We’re removed two seasons, but there aren’t a lot of guys left, but there are some guys that I’m awfully close with that mean a lot to me.
“[Moving around] is just part of this league now.”
The last time Chargers and Vikings met was Turner’s second-to-last season in San Diego and a 24-17 victory for him. The meeting with the Vikings that Turner remembers most, though, was in 2007 when Adrian Peterson took over the game. Peterson set the NFL rushing record with 296 yards in the Vikings’ 35-17 victory.
“What I remember was in the first half I thought we actually contained Adrian pretty well,” Turner said. “He had been playing at a really high level and then the first third down in the second half he breaks off that 74-yard run. That’s how I remember it and it all broke loose then.”
Turner said he thought Peterson had a similar effort in last Sunday’s 26-16 win over the Detroit Lions and he hopes to be on the good side of another Peterson outburst against the Chargers.
When Turner was with St. Louis he watched Flipper Anderson compile 336 reception yards to set the NFL’s single-game receiving yards record. If the trend continues, we could see another single-game record broken while Turner is watching Sunday.
Eight years have passed since Adrian Peterson blasted the Chargers with an NFL-record 296 yards in a 35-17 win at the Metrodome.
Forgotten in the record is the fact Peterson stood at 258 yards when the Vikings got the ball back with 6:45 left in the game. Peterson had been pulled from the game and was on the sideline when Chester Taylor carried the ball four straight times for 34, 5, 0 and 2 yards for a touchdown.
The Vikings didn’t get the ball back again until 1:58 remained. Peterson got the first carry, which went for 35 yards. He was two yards from the record, yet Taylor got the next carry for six yards.
Then, with 1:04 left and the sideline alerted to where Peterson stood in relation to Jamal Lewis’ three-year-old record, Peterson carried the ball one more time, got his three yards and, well, the rest is history.
Peterson was asked today if he ever thinks how far he could have pushed the record had he gotten those six carries that Taylor got in the final 6:45.
“I do,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. I look back and think, ‘Man, I could have been the first guy to go over 300.’ Four yards. But, you know, at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to happen or it would have happened. But I’ll say this: If I get close to 296 or 300 again, I will be asking for it next time.”
Peterson’s 134-yard game against the Lions on Sunday felt like old times. Today’s press conference had a similar feel, with Peterson even fielding a question from defensive end Brian Robison, who wanted to know if Peterson would prefer to fight one grizzly bear or three wolves (answer below).
Asked if it’s starting to feel like old times after missing 15 games last season to deal with child-abuse charges, Peterson said:
“In my mind, I would say so,” he said. “It’s funny how things kind of shaped up Week 1 and then I transitioned into Week 2. I’ll see how I feel this week. Body-wise, I really was able to get my body broke in this game. Twenty-nine carries, 30-some touches. So my body really took a pounding. So kind of build up that callous over the entire body. I’m sure guys will be bouncing off me a little more this Sunday.”
Asked if 300 yards is possible in today’s NFL, Peterson said, “It’s possible. Anything can happen. You just got to get on a roll and it has to be just one of those days.”
As for this Sunday, when the Chargers return to Minnesota for the first time since that record performance, Peterson said: “I’ve been telling the guys, ‘Be ready for a fight.’ You know, famine, famine, feast!”
Here are some other highlights from Peterson’s press conference:
— On what he remembers about the game: “Coach [Norv] Turner, I remember running by him a couple of times on the [Chargers] sideline. It was a great game. Great effort by the offense. When I look back on the games I’ve been a part of, that probably was the best game collectively that I’ve been a part of. Offensive line and receivers just dedicated to running the ball. Those guys really pinned their ears back and got after it. The result shows the effort, but it gets kind of overlooked with, ‘Oh, Adrian had 296, he set the record.’ But those are the things I remember.”
— On which runs are particularly memorable to him to this day: “Two of them. A ‘G-boss’ play to the right. Going into the end zone toward our tunnel. I remember that one. I remember EB [running backs coach Eric Bieniemy] getting on me the first half about just trusting it and getting around the corner. I trusted it. It really didn’t look clean and I just kept pressing it and was able to just break it for like 30 or 40 yards. And then I remember a long run to the left side, going toward the tunnel as well. I think it was maybe like 30 or 40 yards and I fumbled. So it was like a big run, a big play, and they ended up getting the ball. I guess we were just in the zone. Just get it back, hold it high and tight and me pounding the rock.”
— On LaDainian Tomlinson, who was on the other side that day, saying that game was a “passing of the torch”: “It means a lot to hear him say that because I went into that game and LT was a guy I looked up to and one of the guys who inspired me to be great as well. So I was pretty wired up to see him run and to play against him. Yeah, I guess you could say it was kind of a passing of the torch. But I’m not ready to pass the torch, I can tell you that.”
— On whether he knew he was getting close to the record: “I had no idea until it was like the fourth quarter and I needed like four or five yards. I think Jeff [Anderson, currently executive director of communications] came up and said something to me. Then coach put me in and I got past the record and then they took me out. It’s not something I think about. I’ve learned that if you go out and think about 200 yards, you’re not going to get it. Just go out and play and tally it up at the end.”
— On a question from defensive end Brian Robison, who poked his head into the scrum and asked if Peterson would rather fight a grizzly bear or three wolves: “A grizzly bear or three wolves? Wow. … Could I run?”
Note: Robison said running would result in the options becoming seven grizzly bears or 26 wolves.
“Well,” Peterson said. “I’ll run and just take my chances against the grizzly bears and run and zig-zag for the wolves. The strength of the wolves is the pack, so I don’t want to go against them.”
Center John Sullivan, who will be sidelined at least six more weeks after undergoing back surgery two weeks ago, spoke with reporters today for the first time since going under the knife on Sept. 9. While it is still too early to pencil in a potential return date, he says he is “progressing pretty fast.”
Sullivan first started to be bothered by the injury during the second week of training camp, while the Vikings were preparing to play the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game. Figuring it was just a sore back and that he could play through the pain, he started the first two preseason games. He took a couple of epidurals, but when his recovery plateaued, team doctors and an independent spine specialist decided surgery was the only other option.
“The nice part for me is going into the surgery I didn’t know I would be on [injured reserve] designated to return,” Sullivan said. “I think they were waiting for some more information on how things looked once they got in there. And to find out the next day that my season’s not over, that it’s just delayed, that was great news. And I have something to look forward to and I’m going to be back this year helping this team win.”
The herniated disk that required surgery was the first significant back injury of his career. The 310-pound center said the rest of his disks looked fine and the doctors told him that this shouldn’t be a recurring injury.
Sullivan said the “main therapy” in his recovery so far has been a lot of walking. He has started to do tabletop exercises along with “some strength movements.” He believes the eight-week window on his IR designation will give him adequate time to build up his strength again before playing.
Sullivan, who had only sat out three games in his career before this season, said it has been hard to watch his teammates play while sidelined.
“There’s a measure of guilt,” said Sullivan, who had started 57 straight games before missing the opener. “And I’ve spoken with my wife and the rest of my family and my support system, the training staff here, and I understand it’s completely illogical to feel guilty about being injured, especially in this sport. But you just can’t help but feel like you’re letting people down.”
He hasn’t sat in on team meetings yet, but he has met with his replacement, Joe Berger, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to discuss protection calls and other center-specific things. That has made him feel a little involved.
He is getting back in the swing of things at home, too. Sullivan and his wife had their first child in August around when his back injury first surfaced.
“I can lift a baby, although I haven’t changed too many diapers,” he joked. “My wife’s been awesome, really picked up the slack. It was tough on her, basically taking care of two babies. I was pretty useless there for a while.”
The mood change at Winter Park has been obvious this week. Sunday’s 26-16 victory over the Detroit Lions put smiles back on the players’ faces and put positive spin back on the Vikings season.
The emotional swing from Week 1′s 20-3 disappointment at San Francisco to Week 2′s high is something the players would prefer to avoid, though.
“We were part of that [these last two weeks], but we gotta make sure we’re not a part of the up and down thing,” Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “You want to be the team that’s steady and getting better.
“The roller coaster is going to get you 8-8, 9-7, 7-9 [records]. … It’s not going to get you to the playoffs most of the time. You might get lucky once or twice, but you want to be the team that is getting better come October, November, December. You don’t want to be the team that is up and down.”
The Vikings were one of five teams that arguably lost badly in their season opener and recovered to avoid a 0-2 start.
Cleveland lost to the New York Jets 31-10 in Week 1 and beat Tennessee 28-14 in Week 2. Tampa Bay lost to Tennessee 42-14 and then topped New Orleans 26-19. Oakland lost to Cincinnati 33-13 in their season opener and then beat Baltimore 37-33.
Jacksonville and the Vikings were the only teams held to single digits in Week 1 and both responded with 20-plus point efforts for victories. The Jaguars lost to North Carolina 20-9 and then beat Miami 23-20.
Wallace said the trick to avoiding the emotional ride is to stay grounded.
“Just every week starting fresh and getting back grounded no matter how many points you win or lose by or what kind of game you had,” he added. “Just going back to the drawing board and going back to square one and fresh that week. I think that will keep you consistent and keep getting better reach week instead of the roller coaster.”
Since 2001, the Vikings have been regular riders of the NFL’s roller coaster. They finished with 9-7, 8-8 or 7-9 records five times during this stretch, with at least 10 losses six times, and compiled only three seasons of 10-plus wins.
After two polar-opposite weeks, it’s anyone’s guess what direction this Sunday’s ride will go in with the San Diego Chargers (1-1) coming to TCF Bank Stadium.
“It’s all the same, making sure we’re on point, making sure that we understand it’s one game,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We haven’t done anything. We cannot think that ‘Whoa, everything is great now that we’ve won one game.’ We have to have the same intensity and part of it is me talking to the team. Talking about the things that I expect, the way we go about our business and the way we prepare for the ballgame, whether it’s on game day or on Saturday or Wednesday.”
Video last week captured after the Vikings’ game in San Francisco captured an attack on a Vikings fan that led to the arrest of four suspects, three of whom were charged. It happened in a parking lot near Levi’s Stadium, and it could have implications beyond the attack itself.
This week, city leaders in Santa Clara (where the stadium is located) discussed whether stricter alcohol policies would have helped defuse that (and other) instances of fan violence.
My short answer: yeah, of course it would.
But here’s a snippet from the story in the San Jose Mercury News:
Though it is unclear to what extent alcohol played a role in last week’s videotaped beating that sent a Minnesota Vikings fan to the hospital, it wasn’t the first violent incident among fans at the $1.3 billion stadium that opened in the city last year. Council members floated ideas ranging from cutting off drink sales inside the stadium at halftime to drunken-driver checkpoints near the exits to quell the violence. …
But Santa Clara Police Chief Michael Sellers was skeptical a crackdown on booze would work, citing research by a national alcohol management expert, Jill Pepper, who works with all teams in the NFL. “She said changing policy could cause an increase in some issues.” he said. “Fans will stockpile or binge drink — which they normally would not do — because they know the stop in sales is coming.”
Most NFL stadiums (including SF’s) stop alcohol sales at the end of the third quarter. Is there much difference between sobering up for an hour and a half vs. 45 minutes? I guess I don’t really know. I do know that alcohol sales are big business. And I do know that while I’ve never been in a parking lot altercation at a game, the one time someone tried to instigate one with me (Bears game in Chicago), alcohol most definitely played a role.