Former OU star Adrian Peterson’s season has evolved from great to frustrating

Posted Sunday, Nov. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Adrian Peterson could not have dreamed of a better start to this season.

The Minnesota Vikings running back needed only 13 seconds for his first touchdown, with his 78-yard run coming on the first play from scrimmage in the first game.

He felt certain it meant bigger and better things for 2013. A Super Bowl run? An NFL single-season rushing record?

“Ha! Ha! Yeah, I did,” Peterson said in a conference call with media at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. “We still have an opportunity to make it a great season. That’s what I try to focus on. It’s funny, but you couldn’t have told me the season would be like this after that first play.

“Still with that, where we are now, 1-6, there’s still hope and that’s what I’m holding on to.”

Peterson has endured personal tragedy and professional frustration this season.

The former Oklahoma running back watched his 2-year-old son Tyrese Robert Ruffin die, the result of a beating at the hands of the boyfriend of Tyrese’s mother. Peterson only recently discovered Tyrese was his son.

“With time, you’re able to heal,” Peterson said. “You’re able to kind of wrap your mind around it somewhat. So yeah, I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago.”

Peterson’s 2012 season has been well documented. Only nine months after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Peterson returned and, without missing a game, came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season rushing record of 2,105.

Peterson set a goal of 2,500 rushing yards this season.

Peterson is only eight carries and 81 yards behind last year’s pace, but he has far more runs of 3 yards or less this year. Of his 128 carries, 71 gained less than 4 yards.

Superman’s Kryptonite has proved to be the Vikings’ quarterback carousel. Minnesota has started three quarterbacks this season, and they rank 27th in passing, allowing defenses to concentrate on Peterson.

“What you put on film is what you are, and we haven’t put much on film to make defenses really respect us as a balanced team,” Peterson said. “Coming off last year, MVP, 2,000 yards, guys are coming in to stop the run, and this is how they’ve always played the Vikings for the past seven years. Come in and stop the run, definitely with more of an emphasis on it now. So you’re going to have those [runs for 3 yards or less].”

Peterson, 28, has had his eye on another record, too. He wants Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record.

Peterson has 9,420 yards seven games into his seventh season. Smith had 9,488 to this point.

Peterson would have to play five-plus seasons after this one, averaging the 1,475 he has averaged per season in his career, to break Smith’s all-time rushing record of 18,355.

Peterson, a Palestine native, thinks it’ll be sooner than that. He predicted last summer he would become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher in Week 16 of 2017. He stood by that prediction last week.

“I definitely have to keep my game up to par … and that record can be broken,” Peterson said. “But I’m not focusing on that. I set goals, and I just go out and play and if happens, it happens and if doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t harp on it.”

McElroy in Cincy

Greg McElroy’s welcome-to-Cincinnati moment came when he met with reporters for the first time.

“It’s quite different,” McElroy said in a phone interview. “In New York, I think we had something like 70 credentialed media members every day. Here, we might have seven. It’s great. I love it here.”

The former Southlake Carroll and Alabama quarterback was signed to the Bengals’ practice squad after his release from the Jets the week of the season opener. He joined his good friend, starter Andy Dalton, and Josh Johnson in the quarterbacks’ room.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Andy’s game, and for him as a person,” McElroy said. “It’s great to see him have the success he’s having and be along for the ride and try to help him as much as I can.”

McElroy, 25, travels with the Bengals, carrying the clipboard and charting all the plays. While he would rather be on the active roster, McElroy said his time on the practice squad has been beneficial.

“The practice squad is a good opportunity for me, an opportunity to be around some great players and just try to help the team any way I can,” he said. “I do enjoy it. Of course, everybody wants to be on the active roster, but I understand the situation, and it’s a great learning experience.”

McElroy was a seventh-round pick of the Jets in 2011. He played in two regular-season games last season, going 19-for-31 for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He is 0-1 as a starter, losing a week after coming on in relief to lead the Jets to a comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

The Jets already had Mark Sanchez, drafted Geno Smith in April, and McElroy was beaten out by Matt Simms in the preseason, ending his time in New York.

McElroy calls his time with the Jets a “great experience” and said he appreciates coach Rex Ryan for giving him a chance. But he adds that “you can’t look back; you have to look forward.”

He hopes for another chance to get back on the field and prove himself.

“I have confidence in myself, and I have confidence that I would be able to go out there and perform,” McElroy said. “I’ve been in [the league] for a while now, and I’m starting to really understand the intricacies of playing quarterback at this level. It’s obviously tremendously difficult, but it’s a great challenge.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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