While Vikings decision-makers are taking every opportunity to publicly state they would like suspended running back Adrian Peterson to play for the team this season, Peterson himself is apparently “uneasy” about the prospect of returning the Vikings.
Peterson said in an interview with ESPN on Thursday night that he felt the team’s decision to work with the NFL to get him put on the commissioner’s exempt list in September was an “ambush” and stated that it has made him question how much support he has from the Vikings.
“It shows you can have all the loyalty toward someone and toward an organization, a fan base, but when things really shift and it’s you or the empire, they’re gonna put you out on a leash,” he said.
His comments come two weeks after he said “of course” he would love to return to the Vikings.
“I said, ‘Of course.’ I said it,” Peterson said. “But my emotions, as far as those things I feel, those are for players like [outside linebacker] Chad Greenway, those guys that play the game just like me, that have the same passion I have, the same goal I have, to win a championship. That’s where it comes from. It don’t come from the organization. I’m not in a good place when it comes to that.”
Yesterday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he “expects” Peterson to play for the team in 2015 and predicted he would come back with something to prove. Head coach Mike Zimmer again voiced his support for Peterson this morning and vouched for him as a person.
But Peterson believes some people in the organization do not want him back, and he questioned how Vikings fans and local media treated him after he was charged with child abuse in September.
“This came from the state I love so much, that I wish to bring a championship to? This is how they treat me when I’m down and out? You kick me?” Peterson told ESPN. “My wife [and I], we’ve had several conversations about me returning to Minnesota, what the best options are. If I left it up to her, I’d be somewhere else today, and that’s with her weighing everything. It’s a lot for me to weigh. She understands that. But there are some things that I’m still uneasy about.”
Peterson also said that he has been complying with the NFL’s requirements for reinstatement from his suspension, including talking to the psychiatrist the NFL required him to speak and set up a counseling and treatment plan. Peterson is eligible for reinstatement on April 15.
INDIANAPOLIS —- DeVante Parker wouldn’t mind reuniting with Teddy Bridgewater again.
In their three seasons together at Louisville, Bridgewater connected with Parker 113 times for 1,920 yards and 28 touchdowns, including a dozen touchdowns during Bridgewater’s final season.
Bridgewater, of course, left for the NFL and finished strong in his rookie year with the Vikings.
“We all knew what Teddy can do. He was prepared all the time,” Parker said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Field. “People doubted him and he’s proved everybody wrong.”
Parker’s numbers took a dip in 2014 without Bridgewater, but he is in the conversation over this draft’s top receivers and is considered by draft analysts as a lock to go in the top 20 or so picks.
Some of those analysts projected him to the Vikings at pick No. 11 in their early mock drafts.
It’s safe to say Parker and Bridgewater will be pleased if that’s how April’s draft plays out.
“That would be real good, to reunite with him again,” said Parker, who was measured today at 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds. “We had a good connection from college and it would be a good thing.”
Bridgewater has been in the ear of General Manager Rick Spielman, vouching for his college teammate and advocating that the Vikings take Parker. Spielman has also asked Bridgewater about Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Teddy’s high school teammate. This is a common thing, though. Spielman often asks players about old teammates, but that doesn’t mean they have say in his decisions.
“They had a great career together but that has no influence on who we’re looking at,” Spielman said yesterday morning in his chat with Twin Cities reporters. “We’re going to look at who’s best for us regardless. You have to look at the best football player, who fits your scheme the best and what you’re trying to get accomplished. That has no part of the equation.”
Still, consider the Vikings interested in Parker. He said today that he spoke with them out here.
Last month, we wrote about how the Wolves should try to acquire Kevin Garnett as a mentor of sorts for all their young players. It was a bit of wishful thinking, a bit of puzzle pieces fitting together and a bit of a whim.
It seemed unlikely at the time that it could happen this year. We were really interested in next year, a final stop for Garnett, No. 21 coming back to Minnesota to play season 21 in the NBA.
But it went from speculative curiosity to the Wolves and Nets talking trade to “cautious optimism” that this thing could get done today (per a tweet from Marc Stein) faster than KG in his prime could swat away a shot.
Make no mistake: The Wolves would not be getting KG in his prime. They wouldn’t even be getting him in those golden years, when he was still productive in Boston even if he was on the decline. Da Kid is no kid anymore. He’s fifth all-time in NBA minutes played, closing in on 50,000, and could be third in minutes before the season ends.
The wear and tear of aging has taken him from up-and-comer, to superstar, to useful cog, to role player.
But it doesn’t matter. The Wolves absolutely should acquire Garnett if they can. It’s not about filling seats, though we suppose there will be curiosity from fans. It’s about setting an example, even if it’s only for a couple months and he decides not to play a 21st season, for a roster filled with promising players as young as he once was.
For all of Garnett’s flaws, his defining feature has always been a relentlessness that we’ve never seen matched. He and Ricky Rubio would click. He and Andrew Wiggins would talk. He and the rest of the young Wolves would probably butt heads and come out better for it.
Teaching a young team to gel is a coach’s responsibility, too, but there’s no substitute for the leadership from a player.
INDIANAPOLIS —- Head coach Mike Zimmer just sat down with us in the lobby of the team’s hotel here in Indianapolis and within a minute was playfully heckled by a passerby for being stuck talking to a group of local reporters. Needless to say, offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn’t miss all the extra media responsibilities that came with being a head coach.
Zimmer was in a relaxed mood, cracking some jokes of his own, too, and sharing a couple of colorful stories that we are unable to share with you. This year’s scouting combine is a little less stressful for him now that he is settled in as head coach and since he won’t have to spend the next two months jetting all over the country in search of a starting quarterback (it’s safe to say the Wilfs aren’t going to hook him up with a private jet to go scout defensive tackles or cornerbacks).
No, Zimmer is happy to have Teddy Bridgewater, the winner of the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year award. Of course, Zimmer couldn’t resist rattling the quarterback’s cage for winning the fan award.
“I texted him something like, ‘Hey, congratulations, Teddy. Now let’s see if we can win a championship, unless you just want to be a celebrity quarterback,’” Zimmer said. “He texted me back and said, ‘Thanks, Coach. But I’ve never cared about individual awards and all I ever care about is the team and winning football games.’ The stuff he says is so perfect anyway.”
About the team and the business of winning football games…
Zimmer was a little more forthcoming about the team’s offseason plans, especially at the running back situation, than General Manager Rick Spielman was yesterday.
Zimmer said it’s not a big deal that suspended superstar Adrian Peterson won’t be eligible for reinstatement until a month after the start of free agency.
“We’re not going to look for a running back in free agency anyway,” Zimmer said.
It is his preference — and the organization’s likely path — to improve the team through the draft.
“I’d much rather go through the draft to find players than free agency,” Zimmer said. “If you don’t know the guy and you haven’t coached him or somebody else hasn’t coached him … I think you make a lot of mistakes there. You use free agency to plug in a couple of holes, but I don’t believe that we’re going to go out and pay some guy a whole bunch of money. When I was in Cincinnati and a lot of places, we would kind of go for the lower-end free agents and coach them up and hope they fit in our scheme.”
Zimmer has mostly focused on defensive draft prospects after the 2014 season ended. The depth at linebacker, one area of need, isn’t as deep as he would like. Same deal at cornerback. But his opinion could change a little bit after he sees some of these players in person.
There are a couple of more Zimmer tidbits I’ll share before getting to work on tomorrow’s story.
Zimmer talked about the addition of former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, whom the Vikings claimed off waivers yesterday. Zimmer said Bostick is a good athlete who will come in and compete with the guys on the roster. He also said he is a solid special teams player, though he couldn’t resist making a joke when asked about Bostick botching that onside kick in the NFC title game.
“We’ll try not to put him on the onside kick team,” Zimmer said.
Finally, a little something on wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. I thought we might get through the week without a comment from Zimmer or Spielman about Patterson, whose struggles last season let to the spilling of tons of digital ink. Alas, Zimmer was asked about Patterson, but at least he had some new, interesting things to say about Patterson’s lost 2014 season.
“I think one of the biggest problems Cordarrelle had last year was he was going to have this breakout year and he was going to be this,” he said. “I think all those things maybe affected him a little bit, and he thought how easy this game would be and how easy it was going to go. And it didn’t quite go that way. So let’s just keep our heads down and work and not worry about whatever.”
Patterson has been in touch with Receiver X, the mysterious former NFL receiver whom Zimmer has asked Patterson to work with. Zimmer is still not revealing the identity of said mentor.
Asked if Patterson has mentality to follow through by putting in the work, Zimmer hesitated.
“He’s going to have to have that mentality,” Zimmer said. “I know he likes the limelight and all that stuff, but if you’re not playing, that stuff’s going to fade away fast.”