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Gruden: Plenty of Intrigue Surrounding Peterson’s Return

Posted Sep 6, 2017


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — There’s going to be plenty of electricity and buzz inside U.S. Bank Stadium when the Vikings kick off the 2017 season against the New Orleans Saints on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Not to mention a familiar face on the opposing sideline.

Adrian Peterson spent the first 10 seasons of his career in Purple, and ranks first in Vikings history with 11,747 rushing yards with 97 career rushing touchdowns.

ESPN Monday Night Football color analyst Jon Gruden told reporters during a recent conference call that there will undoubtedly be emotions on both sides surrounding Peterson’s return.

Gruden likened Peterson’s trip to Minnesota in the same light as quarterback Brett Favre suiting up for the Vikings against Green Bay in 2009.

“I think there's going to be a lot of drama surrounding this, there's no doubt about it,” Gruden said. “It'll be an emotional night not only for the fans but for Adrian Peterson.

“I remember talking to Brett Favre about that. He said he felt sick in his hotel room the day of (his first) game (against the Packers),” Gruden added. “He was just distraught with his emotions of playing against his former team, and I'm sure Adrian is going to have a lot of those same emotions, going to the stadium as a visitor, being booed by the fans, not cheered, and every carry, every snap will be scrutinized, and he's not going to be protected against this Viking defense.”

The Vikings tabbed Peterson with the seventh overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Texas native rushed for at least 1,000 yards in seven seasons, and eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in 2012 when he ran for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Peterson will now try to move the chains for New Orleans, which has finished 7-9 and hasn’t made the playoffs for three straight seasons.

Gruden said he’s looking forward to Minnesota’s run defense going up against the former NFL MVP.

“Having watched the Vikings in training camp over the years, they weren't allowed to touch Adrian Peterson,” Gruden said. “He's fair game in this one, so it'll be fun to watch Linval Joseph and (Eric) Kendricks and Harrison Smith go after their former teammate because it's going to be an intense atmosphere on opening night.”

Peterson joined a Saints backfield that included Mark Ingram, who rushed for 1,000-plus yards in 2016. New Orleans also drafted Alvin Kamara out of the University of Tennessee.

In addition to seeing how Peterson handles his return to the Twin Cities, Gruden noted he wants to see how the running back is used by Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.

“I'm not even sure how in the world they're going to use Adrian Peterson,” Gruden said. “The most impressive back I saw in New Orleans this offseason or preseason was a rookie out of Tennessee, and I know (Mark) Ingram is going to get his touches, and I'm anxious to see what role Sean Payton uses Adrian Peterson in.

“They've never really been known for their running game in the last seven or eight years, so it'll be a huge transition,” Gruden added. “It'll be very exciting, but there's a lot of unknowns heading into the opener.”