MINNEAPOLIS – Nine snaps. Six carries. 18 rushing yards. A sideline exchange with his coach that appeared to be heated.
This certainly wasn’t the return that Adrian Peterson envisioned when he learned the New Orleans Saints would open their season against his former club, the Vikings, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Peterson watched his replacement, rookie Dalvin Cook, rush for 127 yards on 22 carries in the Vikings’ 29-19 victory over the Saints on Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Unfortunately for him, he also spent much of the time the Saints were on offense watching from the sideline.
This was unfamiliar territory for a guy who was used to being the focus of the offense during the majority of his 10 seasons with the Vikings. The Saints went 1-for-5 in the red zone, but Peterson often wasn’t used in those situations as he begins adjusting to being in a time share with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara.
“Obviously, being the competitor that I am, I want to be in there on every snap,” said Peterson, whose carries matched his career-low and whose rushing yards tied for the third-lowest total of his career. “But I don’t make those calls. So I’m there just waiting for my number to be called. I’ve got confidence in Mark, in Alvin, to be able to make things happen in the red zone as well. I have confidence in myself. That’s something I’ve done well.”
Peterson was hoping to show the Vikings that they made a mistake by releasing him after last season. He spent several weeks on the open market before signing a two-year, $7 million contract with the Saints in late April that includes $3.5 million in guarantees for this season.
Playing the Vikings on opening night provided the ideal setting to prove that at 32 he isn’t a declining player. Instead, he looked like a guy near the end of a brilliant career.
“It was a little different but for me, once I got out there, it was more fun,” he said of his first game in Minnesota as a visitor. “I wish I could have gotten a few more snaps, but it was fun and interesting and to just kind of get in there going up against those guys. Being around them for so long, knowing some of their tendencies. It would have played a bigger role (if) I had been in there a little more.”
Peterson’s impact was immediate as he gained 9 yards on the Saints’ first play from scrimmage. That was followed by a 1 yard gain. “I felt pretty good,” Peterson said of his first carry. “I really didn’t know what to expect coming in.”
Peterson, though, had only four touches after that and, despite the fact the Saints have attempted to talk up his ability in the receiving game, he was only targeted on one Drew Brees throw and that fell incomplete.
There was plenty of speculation about what type of reception Peterson might receive from the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium. The future Hall of Fame running back is the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher and will remembered for his performance in Purple.
But that didn’t stop fans from booing when Peterson and his Saints teammates were shown on the scoreboard coming onto the field before the game, and, if there was any question if those boos were intended for Peterson, it became clear they were when fans booed again when he carried the ball for the first time.
“You said (there were) some boos?” Peterson said when asked about the greeting. “I heard all the screaming and yelling. I didn’t hear any boos.”
This was typical Peterson. The man has the unique ability to see things the way he wants and not necessarily as they are. Maybe that’s why he tried to convince everyone that what seemed to be angry words for his coach, Sean Payton, in the third quarter shouldn’t have been considered a big deal.
“There’s no conflict. Let’s not to try spin it like it is,” Peterson said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Payton and his offense. He’s a great mind.”
Payton also downplayed the situation saying, “there wasn’t any heated exchange.”
Told he had the ability to defuse the situation by saying that his exchange with Payton had nothing to do with the fact that Peterson had only four carries in the first two quarters, an agitated Peterson brought up the fact that too many people jump to conclusions.
“I told you it was nothing,” he said. “It’s not my first time being in situations where media, not everyone here, but people jump to conclusions and make their own assumptions when they have no idea what was going on or what was said. I could have said, ‘I love you.’ We have bigger fish to fry.”
How big of part Peterson will play in the Saints’ frying those fish is a major question after Monday.