Adrian Peterson is fifth among NFL rushers with 1,123 yards, but the number that could be in bold face among his stats is zero fumbles.
What was a hot topic a year ago has almost become forgotten. Peterson had seven fumbles and lost the ball six times during 16 regular season games last year. The year before, 2008, he had nine fumbles, losing four of them.
The fumble numbers hurt and likely so did the public criticism. Peterson is a prideful guy.
He acknowledged in September placing more emphasis on handling the football with care. He said ball security is definitely a “mental” issue and also that running backs coach Eric Bieniemy showed him examples where he fumbled or presented the opportunity to tacklers to knock the ball loose.
“…As far as the physical part, it’s just holding it high,” Peterson said earlier in the season. “I found out by studying myself that when I’m going down I kind of brace myself with the hand I’m carrying the ball in, and that’s leaving opportunities for those guys that are reaching, and scraping and punching for that ball, giving those guys the opportunity to make big plays.”
Vikings cornerback Litto Sheppard played for the Jets last year. When he joined the Vikings he brought perspective on how rival players viewed Peterson. “That was a big thing for Adrian this year to come in and try to protect the ball more,” Sheppard said. “The kind of player that he is and considering how last year ended, with the history of what people think, I think he took it upon himself to take that next step and be a lot better as far as protecting the football and not turning the ball over especially in tough games. He’s done a great job and it shows.
“When I first got over here I mentioned a couple of things to him as far as what…we were scouting him on. I think he’s definitely took heed to some of that. …He’s such a tough runner, (and) he tries to fight for every yard. Once guys got a hold of him they tend to go for the ball. I think he has been more comfortable (this fall) as far as protecting the ball at the first initial contact.”
Sheppard said the approach when he was with the Jets was that when a defender slowed Peterson down “everybody else was going for the ball.” Regardless of whether Peterson faces that strategy this year or not, he’s holding on to the football.
And including this Sunday’s game at home against the Giants he only has to get through four more games to have a perfect goose egg in the fumbles category.