Is there a growing rift between A.P., Vikings?

Something is wrong between Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. Maybe it's a contract issue or the preferential treatment given to Brett Favre, or perhaps Peterson is miffed at coach Brad Childress for throwing him under the bus for dropping the foot...

Something is wrong between Adrian Peterson and the Vikings.

Maybe it's a contract issue or the preferential treatment given to Brett Favre, or perhaps Peterson is miffed at coach Brad Childress for throwing him under the bus for dropping the football. But something clearly is sour in this relationship.

Peterson is a smart guy. He knew how he would be perceived for skipping minicamp in favor of a parade in his honor during Adrian Peterson Day in Palestine, Texas. People envisioned him sitting on a platform, thumbs behind his lapels, and smoking a big cigar as the floats chugged past. You know, soaking up the glory while his teammates sweat on the practice field.

In reality, Peterson does a lot of good work in that community. Much of Adrian Peterson Day consisted of his meeting with local high school athletes and encouraging them to stay on the straight and narrow. It's not as if he shows up once a year to get a pat on the back.

Plus, there certainly are enough media types willing to carry the coach's message about misplaced priorities. Many of the headlines began:


"Childress irked ..."

"Childress miffed ..."

"Childress annoyed ..."

Well, it doesn't take much. Brad has been irked, miffed and annoyed over one thing or another since he walked in the door. And, frankly, these short offseason camps are worthless for veterans. The workouts are tightly controlled, and the emphasis is on repetition for the newcomers. These camps are all about giving the coaches a chance to check out the players' health and conditioning.

But that's not even the point. Minicamp is, after all, mandatory unless you are Brett Favre. And I don't have a problem with that, either. The point is that Peterson could have attended camp if he so desired. The Fourth Annual Adrian Peterson Day was scheduled a long time ago, but it could have been rescheduled.

I'd bet the house that event organizers asked A.P. if he wanted to switch the day. After all, the event is organized by his closest friends and relatives, and they certainly don't want to cause him any trouble. In Palestine, Peterson is an example of someone who does the right thing, not someone who creates problems.

Plus, Peterson probably still could have attended part of the minicamp if he chose to hustle up and dash through an airport or two. All those options were rejected. Why? Well, there's got to be something going on.

I do know that Peterson isn't feeling the love up here like he did his first couple of years. It's probably because of the recent string of fumbles, for which Childress publicly has given him holy hell. Just talking to people, I detect that they now expect the worst from Peterson. It's as if he has an incurable disease that dooms him as a football player.


I'm not going to make excuses for his fumbles. He dropped the football seven times last season, and the other team recovered six of those. He fumbled twice more in the playoff game against New Orleans. Even though Minnesota recovered both, the fumbles still hurt because they short-circuited the drive.

But here's the deal: Almost all great running backs lose the ball a lot. There are two key reasons. The obvious one is that they carry the ball often. With the great backs, however, it also has to do with the defensive strategy. If you can't tackle a guy, you might as well go for the ball.

Opposing teams have an awful time tackling Adrian Peterson. So they go for the ball. He's not the first to go through this. Eric Dickerson fumbled close to a hundred times during his career, including 27 combined over his first two seasons. Jim Brown, the greatest running back ever, fumbled eight or nine times a year. Franco Harris had years when he'd drop the football 10 or 11 times.

The exceptions are running backs such as Barry Sanders who, after 10 fumbles as a rookie, rarely dropped the ball. It should be noted that many great backs fumbled less as their careers progressed. Walter Payton, for example, fumbled 30 times during his first three seasons, then become more sure-handed. Tony Dorsett was considered a fumbler as a rookie and then turned around that perception.

Peterson's three-year regular-season totals: four, nine and seven. Last I heard, they were making him carry around an extra-heavy football. It seems kind of embarrassing.

I don't know if this public search for a "cure" has anything to what has gone wrong. Perhaps Peterson feels that the starting quarterback wouldn't have gotten any grief for wanting to attend a Brett Favre Day. All we know is that Peterson has earned the reputation of being a team-first guy and not a troublemaker. He easily could have attended minicamp yet stayed away.

Something's got to be up. Vikings fans should hope it isn't the beginning of a huge rift.

Tom Powers is a sports columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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