By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"No problem," says Peterson, turning his attention to the young duo.
"How old are you?" he asks one.
"I'm six," replies the kid, who would be blushing were his cheeks not already sunburned.
Names are exchanged. Peterson extends his hand for a shake.
We're about to witness a disaster.
But no. Peterson relaxes his infamous death grip, and neither youngster grimaces in discomfort, let alone shrieks in pain.
One question surrounding Peterson entering this season was whether he'd be able to pull it back on the field. If there was a criticism to be made, it was that he sometimes showed an addict-like zeal for the big play, trying to take it to the house every time he touched the ball. There were times, especially at the beginning of the season, when he'd try to out-juke defenders in the backfield, or run cross-field, and get tripped up for a loss or no-gain as a result.
"Obviously you never want to tell a guy, 'Don't take it to the house,'" head coach Brad Childress said three days before their September 28 game against the Tennessee Titans. "But we're telling him to stay true to his spot, and allow his eyes and instinct take over from there. Some of those early three- to four-yard gains will get a lot further later on in the game."
In week 13, the Vikings faced the Chicago Bears at the Metrodome. The matchup saw a patient Peterson continue his streak of abusing the Bears (he came in averaging a robust 6.8 yards per carry against Chicago and would eat up 131 yards by game's end). More importantly, the 31-14 victory put the resurgent Vikings at 7-5—8-5 after Sunday's victory over the hapless Detroit Lions—good enough for first place in the NFC North.
In the locker room after the Chicago game, a horde of reporters gathered around Peterson's locker. When somebody asked if he was aware of the success he'd had against the Bears, Peterson's first instinct was to lay on thickly the aw-shucksness.
But he's unable to keep a straight face.