Notebook: Thankless job earns Jerome Felton spot in Pro Bowl
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Fullback Jerome Felton, in his fifth NFL season, was selected not because of his own numbers but rather those he helped Peterson accumulate.
While Felton has no rushing attempts and only two receptions for 18 yards, he also has helped Peterson gain an NFL-leading 1,898 yards. That leaves Peterson only 102 yards shy of becoming the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and 208 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams.
Felton's job is often thankless.
"At that position you've got to be a single-minded guy because you're going to be in a lot of collisions with some pretty good linebackers," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "He enjoys his role, he's embraced it. It's a little bit of a dying breed it seems in our league. There are some teams that don't even carry a fullback on their roster."
Felton was signed to a one-year, $750,000 free-agent deal last offseason by the Vikings after splitting 2011 between Carolina and Indianapolis.
"We searched hard and long to find the right guy this offseason and (running backs coach) James Saxon, along with (general manager) Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department, identified Jerome and he's been everything we had hoped for," Frazier said. "His tenacity and his desire to embrace the position and his athletic ability, that's a big deal and that's one of the reasons he's successful."
Felton's time in Minnesota didn't get off to the best start. He was arrested for DUI in early June but he quickly apologized, enabling him to turn the page.
As far as making a bid to make the Pro Bowl roster, Felton said he began to get an idea that was possible when he talked to opponents following games.
"The guys I played against (would) come up to me and tell me certain things, so I definitely felt like I had a shot," he said. "Obviously, we've had a lot of success running the ball and that goes to Adrian and our offensive line also. I definitely thought I had a shot. It's still a pleasant surprise and something I'm really grateful for."
One of the most interesting things about Felton's success with the Vikings is he's playing a role that Peterson doesn't really embrace. Peterson has long said he likes playing without a fullback in front of him.
When asked how the Vikings approached Peterson to inform him of their decision to sign Felton, Frazier said:
"We actually explained to him where his best runs were coming from and the proof is in the pudding. All you've got to do is put the tape on. Some of his best runs were with a guy in front of him. Now, he's had some good runs when there is nobody there as well and even when we haven't blocked the play well he's still had great runs.
"It was consistent that he's had some very good runs with a guy in front of him, going all the way back to Tony Richardson when he was here (during Peterson's rookie season). We looked at all the tape in the offseason and we realized that that would help our football team, help our run game. We made the decision to get Jerome in here."
'A little disappointing'
While Peterson and Felton made the Pro Bowl, no Vikings offensive lineman who blocked for Peterson was voted to the Jan. 27th game in Honolulu.
"I thought for sure both John and Matt, although they made it as alternates, were worthy of being Pro Bowl players," Frazier said. "They have had Pro Bowl seasons. I'm happy for Jerome and obviously for Adrian, but our offensive line, they've done a terrific job all season long and would have liked to have seen the recognition for one of those guys or two of those guys from our offensive line. I think Phil (Loadholt, the Vikings' right tackle) has done a good job this season as well. To be overlooked is a little bit disappointing."
Frazier was diplomatic when asked how flawed the Pro Bowl voting system is, considering benched Packers center Jeff Saturday was named to the NFC team. The Pro Bowl selection process counts the fan, player and coaches votes each as one-third of the process.
"Wel,l John has done a great job for us all season and he's provided great leadership for us and he's played extremely well," Frazier said. "The good news is he was voted as a first alternate so he still may have a chance to play. But he's deserving of going to the Pro Bowl."
Peterson and cornerback Antoine Winfield (broken hand, knee) were the only two Vikings to sit out practice Thursday. Neither has practiced this week, but Frazier said there is no concern they won't play in Sunday's key game against the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome.
The plan is to get Peterson and Winfield some work on Friday.
Defensive end Brian Robison, who missed last Sunday's game at Houston because of a sprained shoulder, was limited for the second day in a row Thursday. Frazier said Robison is looking better.
"He's moving in the right direction," Frazier said. "He was able to get a little bit more work (Thursday) so we'll get him some more (Friday) and see how he does."
Asked if Robison's snaps would be limited Sunday if he does play, Frazier said, "maybe."
"We want to see a little bit more (Friday)," Frazier said. "It's hard to tell until he gets out there and actually puts the pads on and begins to bang a little bit. We'd like for him to play a lot but it's kind of hard to say until you put the shoulder pads on and start banging. He's getting to the point where we feel like he may be able to get out there."
Everson Griffen will start again at left end if Robison can't play.
Meanwhile, Allen returned to practice Thursday after sitting out a day because of illness.
While the Vikings will monitor Peterson's yards and carries Sunday, meaning they will know exactly where he stands when it comes to the 2,000-yard mark and Dickerson's record, that won't be the primary focus for anyone.
"Probably the number I'll be looking at is what's on that scoreboard," Frazier said. "How are the Vikings doing? Are we winning that game or not? That's the number I'll be most concerned about."
Running back James Starks (knee), wide receiver Randall Cobb (knee, ankle) and cornerback Davon House (shoulder, hip) did not practice Thursday for the Green Bay Packers. Kicker Mason Crosby (illness), guard Josh Sitton (concussion) and Saturday (neck, shoulder) were limited.