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Updated: September 10th, 2012 4:29pm
Notebook: Vikings still plan to be 'cautious' with Adrian Peterson

Notebook: Vikings still plan to be 'cautious' with Adrian Peterson

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Running back Adrian Peterson had no issues with his surgically repaired left knee a day after rushing for 84 yards on 17 carries in the Minnesota Vikings' opener.

The game marked the first time Peterson had taken contact to his legs since tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the knee last Dec. 24 in Washington. He underwent surgery on Dec. 30.

"He hasn't come in the training room and he hasn't complained at all so, so far so good," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Monday during his press conference at Winter Park.

Frazier had indicated last week that if Peterson did play Sunday against Jacksonville his role would be limited and Toby Gerhart would be the Vikings' top running back. But Gerhart had only six carries for 18 yards in the Vikings' 26-23 overtime victory over the Jaguars.

Asked if the Vikings would target nearly 20 carries for Peterson moving forward, Frazier said: "I think we still have to be somewhat cautious. Now, Adrian won't want to hear that, but we still have to keep a rotation going between he and Toby.

"I don't think we can at this point say, 'Adrian, look forward to carrying that ball 20 to 25 times.' I don't think we're at that point quite yet. But before (Sunday's) game, I wouldn't have been able to say that he would carry it 17 (times) either. He's very unique in so many ways, but I think we'll go into it going forward knowing that he's coming off a major knee surgery and it will only be his second game since that surgery and full participation. We'll be somewhat cautious."

Frazier said running backs coach James Saxon was in constant communication with Peterson throughout Sunday's game to make sure he was doing all right.

"We had talked about this beforehand, that that conversation had to be going on all throughout the game," Frazier said. "'How you doing? How are you coming along? Are you fatigued, are you feeling soreness?' So it was constant communication. With every conversation, it was always positive. There were some moments where we did bring him out. He got a little bit winded, but he continued to want to participate and there were no ills effects from that. He did a great job."

Playing through pain

Cornerback Antoine Winfield played in Sunday's game despite the fact he is dealing with the death of his younger brother, Anthony Travis, who was murdered last Wednesday in Akron, Ohio. Travis was 30-years old.

Winfield missed practice Thursday but then returned to the team.

"I have so much respect for Antoine," Frazier said. "To experience the loss that he experienced this week and to come to work, to work as hard as he did and then to play in the ballgame and play as well as he did, I don't know that I could have done that. I don't know many people that could have done that.

"Just a very courageous young man, a very strong young man and his teammates, they were very supportive. They were pulling for him. A lot of guys were encouraging him throughout the game and throughout the week as well. I have tremendous respect for him. My heart goes out to he and his family."

Quarterback Christian Ponder praised Winfield for returning to the team and playing Sunday.

"Obviously it's a tough time for him and he had some things to overcome, but it just shows what kind of player he is and he put this team first before (himself)," Ponder said. "We are a family and we support each other and supported him 100 percent through this whole week. A lot of guys probably would have taken the week off, but he didn't and he came out and played well and had a big role in winning this game."

Winfield, who started at left cornerback, was credited with four tackles in the victory.

The tie off his neck

Rookie kicker Blair Walsh did not get the footballs from either his 55-yard field goal that forced overtime as regulation expired Sunday or the 38-yarder he hit in overtime that proved to be the game-winner.

But Walsh did get a gift after the game when Vikings owner Zygi WIlf gave him the tie he was wearing. Evidently, Wilf has made a habit of doing this after significant accomplishments by players.

"(It was) like literally off his neck and he threw it at me," said Walsh, who made all four of his field-goal attempts. "I didn't know what to expect. I was like, 'All right.'"

Walsh said he took the tie home but hasn't decided what he's going to do with the unique gift.

"It's a nice thing to have, and it is a nice one," Walsh said. "I couldn't even read whatever the brand was, that's usually a good sign. ... It was kind of cool for him to do that for me and for him to actually notice that I had done something."

Walsh also said that before his 55-yard attempt with 4 seconds left on the clock, Peterson provided some interesting encouragement.

"He slapped my helmet and kind of turned it actually," Walsh said. "I was laughing when I was running onto the field because I couldn't believe he just did that. Most people don't even want to touch the kicker or talk to him or anything. Christian just gave me a little low high-five as I walking by, and he went and slapped my helmet. I don't think he knows how strong he is."

Asked if that helped to keep him loose, Walsh said: "Yeah, it actually kind of broke my concentration a little bit. I was like, 'Wow, that was ridiculous. I'm just going to go hit this kick.'"

Looking for improvement

Frazier said the thing that concerned him most about Jacksonville's 77-yard, 17-play drive on its opening possession was the fact the Jaguars were able to convert four times on third down.

Jacksonville was 5-of-8 on third-down conversions in the first half and then 4-for-11 in the second half. About the only positive for the Vikings in that first Jacksonville possession was the fact the Jaguars failed to convert on third-and-goal from the Vikings 1-yard line and had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Josh Scobee.

"We had them in situations we want to get teams in, a lot of third-and-7 plus," Frazier said. "We didn't find a way to make a play and that could create problems. Fortunately for us, 17 plays, three points.

"You'll take that when that happens and from an offensive standpoint you're kicking yourself because you didn't get in the end zone. When we get teams in third-and-8, third-and-9, we have to find a way to get off the field. We have to improve on that. That was discouraging and that will definitely be a point of emphasis when we sit down and talk this afternoon."

During that first series, the Jaguars converted on a third-and-7, third-and-9, third-and-8 and third-and-2. Three of the conversions came on Blaine Gabbert passes.

Costly miscue

The Vikings held a 20-15 lead with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter Sunday when wide receiver Michael Jenkins was called for an illegal cut after Peterson gained 3 yards on second-and-9 from the Vikings 15-yard line.

The penalty was declined but it still stopped the clock at a time when the Vikings wanted to keep it running.

"It would have been about 1:03, 1:01 (left), which would have been great with no timeouts at that point for them," Frazier said. "Now you get them back in a backed up situation having to drive the football 80 yards down the field. That was our goal, 80, 85 yards.

"For us to have a penalty just discourages everything you're trying to get done. You stop the clock, you give them a chance to conserve a timeout. It's just not what you want. We have to be smart in that situation and good teams don't allow that to happen. We have to be better than that in that situation."

On third down in that possession, Toby Gerhart lost a yard on third-and-6 from his own 18. Chris Kluwe then booted a 59-yard punt and Jacksonville took over at its own 24.

Six plays later, wide receiver Cecil Shorts caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert after cornerback Chris Cook got all turned around with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Jacksonville had a short-lived three-point lead.

Good work

Rookie left tackle Matt Kalil got good marks from Frazier for his first performance of his NFL career. Frazier said the fourth-overall pick in last April's draft, "played a good game."

"For his rookie debut, to come out and work as hard as he did against what we consider a pretty good front, Jeremy Mincey is a good defensive end and so is Andre Branch, both of those guys are," Frazier said. "Jeremy in particular is a very good player.

"I thought he held his own in the run game, did a very good job in pass protection as well. Just a lot of things that we can build on. There were a few errors that we want to correct. There are some things that he knows he has to get better at, but that's going to be a part of his maturing as an offensive tackle as well."

Quick hits

• Cook, who left Sunday's game briefly in the second quarter, suffered a bruised left arm but is expected to be fine. Frazier said that linebacker Marvin Mitchell, who sat out Sunday because of an ankle injury, might be able to return in Week 2 at Indianapolis.  

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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