Vikings RB Adrian Peterson: 'I Feel Like I'll Be In Camp On Time' (June 9)
It was Friday afternoon, June 8th. Most of the Vikings players and front office personnel worked feverishly, building a new playground for a St. Paul school. Lots of smiles and sweat from the players and staff, but it created an atmosphere of abounding joy for those kids. Adrian Peterson was one of them (A Vikings player and kid at heart). The Vikings 2007 1st-round draft pick took a 10-minute break, in between shoveling and raking, to do this interview. I shook his hand. It was an extremely FIRM handshake. I was always taught to give a firm handshake, but this was a real FIRM handshake. Peterson was ready to talk and dabbled in an occasional, 'Yes, sir.' That caught me off-guard, and made me feel old. Heck, I'm only 35. And since when do pro athletes call anyone in the media, 'Sir'? I was impressed.
The Contract and Training Camp
First things first. Let's delve into meatier matters. The Vikings took Peterson with the 7th overall pick in the draft. That means he won't be cheap to sign. And keep in mind, there are rookies that have historically held-out parts of training camp over stalled contract negotiations. Last year, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway was signed just before camp and arrived on time. But in 2005, DE Erasmus James and WR Troy Williamson were signed on August 1st and 8th, each missing a portion of camp. So what will happen with Peterson?
"I feel like I'll be in camp on time. My agent, Ben Dogra, he does a great job. I hope there's no problem. I don't see any problem coming," Peterson said. "It's very important for me to go out and help my team. And help us reach our goals."
But how much will Peterson cost? In the NFL, rookie salaries are slotted from the top down. Every year the costs go up. By comparison, last year's 7th overall pick was Oakland's Michael Huff. He signed a 5-year, $22.5 million dollar contract that could exceed $43 million dollars with incentives and $15 million dollars of it is guaranteed. That's certainly a model that Peterson's agent will follow.
Vikings head coach Brad Childress doesn't want training camp distractions and he does want Peterson ready to play on day one. A hold-out for even a few days can be a distraction and it's valuable practice time lost for the player, especially a rookie. "I'm sure we'll give him what's fair," Childress said Friday. "Obviously those things get slotted but all in due time."
Peterson's broken collarbone is on the mend. It was highly-publicized before the draft but it doesn't require surgery and he should be fine by training camp. I asked Peterson if that could be a sore spot in negotiations.
"No. Not at all. It's put aside. It's all in the past. They're going to go off of what they see and how I'm performing and how I'm coming out every day working my butt off."
Throughout my interview with Peterson, Pat Williams, the Vikings defensive tackle, piped in a few jokes about Peterson. He clearly loves razzing the rookie. "We can't touch him right now. Until he signs his contract. I give him a hard time all day, every day," Williams said.
"I'm getting used to that. I don't take it to heart," Peterson said. "Our leaders are just messing with me-just giving me a hard time. Half of these guys, they are comedians. They keep me laughing with a smile on my face.I'm fitting in. I love the city."
A minute or two later, a young child comes up to us during the interview and motions for Peterson to sign an autograph. I laugh and nod. He laughs and nods and signs.
"It feels good, giving back to the community and helping to build this playground for the kids. I can remember back when (he was a kid in Palestine, Texas), you know, they came (a local high school team) and did the same thing for us back in Texas. A group of guys came out and helped put our playground together and we really enjoyed that, so it's my turn to fill those shoes now and I'm going to enjoy every minute."
Peterson comes across as a young man filled with expectation and gratitude. He counts his blessings. He's had a few hard knocks. In his childhood, a drunk driver killed his brother Brian. Peterson's father, Nelson, was arrested for laundering drug money. His dad spent 10 years in prison and didn't witness one of Peterson's games in person until last year at Oklahoma. So Peterson's perseverance is truly amazing, regardless of what he does on the football field. But he also knows, that he will now be judged by millions on what he does on Sundays. College was fun and games. The NFL is a billon-dollar industry. He's modified his approach to the game.
"Be dedicated. It's a business. You have to go out there and there are some things in your personal life that you have to put aside and no that I have to spend more time studying doing this. Learn the playbook and all the protections. This is what it's all about now."
Ryan Kibbe - Sports Reporter