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August 28, 2008

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With a year of experience learning the plays and offensive terminology, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, second in the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie, might be even better.  Certainly he will be able to play with even more instinct because of his first year experience.

Vikings fullback Thomas Tapeh, who has played four previous years in the NFL, talked about the difference between first and second seasons.  “When you first come in it’s like you’re hearing Chinese,” he said.  “But after you’ve heard Chinese for awhile, okay, this means go there.  Blue means I gotta go right.  Red I go left. …”

It’s not that Peterson, last year’s NFL rookie of the year, can’t increase his knowledge base in year two.  Tapeh has been willing to help.

“He’s eager to learn,” Tapeh said.  “He’s got the whole book thrown at him.  He’s taking his time.  When I am out there I communicate with him.  I just remind him, ‘You got this over here.’   ‘Okay, okay.’  Because he’s got a lot of things going through his head.   He’s doing a great job.  He’s holding everything in.  He’s being a professional.”

Peterson ran for 1,341 yards last year.  He missed two games last season because of a knee injury and that probably cost him the NFL rushing title.   LaDainian Tomlinson led the league with 1,474 yards.

Peterson is a popular choice as no worse than the NFL’s second best running back after Tomlinson.  Sports Illustrated gave him the No. 2 spot in its Fantasy Football rankings of running backs.  The Sporting News lists him as the No. 9 best player in the league and sort of apologizes for not having him higher.  The publication also published a recent story headlined: “ ‘He’s a Freakin’ Beast.’ ”

Tapeh recognizes that Peterson, at 23, is right there with the best in pro football.  “You put on film, you see the man is gifted,” Tapeh said.  “The man do things that you just can’t coach or teach. …”

Tapeh only had five rushing attempts last season for Philadelphia.  His ball carrying will be minimal here, too.  His job is to block for the running backs, starting with Peterson.

Fun guy to block for?  “Oh, yeah,” Tapeh answered.  “It’s a different guy to block for.  I don’t do too much. Put a body on (defenders) and (he) do the rest.”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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