EAGAN, Minn. — Adrian Peterson and Everson Griffen each spent their first 10 seasons with the Vikings, giving fans plenty to cheer about along the way.
But on Sunday, and the two special players will be sporting Honolulu Blue when the Vikings host the Lions in an NFC North matchup at fan-free U.S. Bank Stadium.
"It'll definitely be great to see them," said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. "Have a lot of respect for both of those guys; I got along really well with both of them. Thankful for them as teammates and as people.
"Always good to see former teammates, and I'm sure they'll have a little extra juice playing against us, wanting to take it to us a little bit, so we gotta be prepared for that," Thielen added. "We know what kind of players both those guys are, so we'll have our work cut out with those guys. It'll be great to see them after the game."
Peterson, of course, is undoubtedly the best running back in Vikings history, and in the top tier of all-time players at his position.
He currently ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,537 rushing yards, is fourth with 113 rushing touchdown and is seventh all-time with 3,121 attempts. Peterson leads the Vikings in all major categories with 2,418 carries for 11,747 yards and 97 rushing scores. He also compiled 49 career 100-yard games in Purple.
Sunday's game won't be Peterson's first visit to Minnesota since he and the team parted ways during the 2017 offseason. Minnesota won in 2017 against New Orleans and in 2019 against Washington.
Peterson on Thursday pondered what Sunday's game means to him.
"It's a divisional game, one we desperately need," Peterson said. "On top of that, to go back and play against a former team and some guys I used to play with on the other side of the ball [will be fun].
"I was there for 10 years," Peterson added. "It's always good to go against those guys. I'm 0-2 against those guys right now, so looking to start to even that out."
Peterson provided many memorable moments in Minnesota, whether it was his single-game record of 296 rushing yards back in 2007, or his incredible 2,097-yard season (second all-time) in 2012 when he was coming off an ACL injury the previous year.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith said he was in awe of Peterson as a rookie during that 2012 season, and continues to be amazed at how the 35-year-old Peterson keep himself in tip-top shape.
"There's really no surprise there for me," Smith said. "The way that he takes care of himself and is just relentless in his workouts and just his mindset. So, I'm not shocked he's still going strong.
"I spent a lot of my years playing with him, during my first few years, mostly just in awe of him and how he played," Smith added. "He brought a lot of energy to us, so I know he's still doing that, he's bringing energy to them with how he runs. So a ton of respect for it and definitely know what we're up against."
When Peterson and the organization went their separate ways in the spring of 2017, the Vikings promptly used a second-round pick on Dalvin Cook.
Even though they are now division rivals, Peterson said he's impressed by Cook's game, including last week's four-touchdown performance in Green Bay in which Cook totaled 226 scrimmage yards.
"Just a combination of speed, vision. He's very elusive, strong guy as well with great vision and very explosive," Peterson said. "When you've got that within a player at the running back position, you've got a lethal weapon.
"That's what he is … he's a lethal weapon. He had four touchdowns didn't he? He had four? So that's impressive to be able to put up four scores, 200 all-purpose yards. That's a job well done," Peterson added. "So I've been watching him since he was at Florida State. He always, in my eyes, looked like a guy that could be really successful once he entered into the NFL.''
While Peterson will likely know how to handle his emotions against his former team, Sunday will not only be Griffen's first game against the Vikings, but his Lions debut after coming over to Detroit in a recent trade with Dallas.
And based on Griffen's videoconference Thursday afternoon, the passionate player will be extra fired up Sunday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked what he had seen from Griffen on recent tape during his time with the Cowboys.
"Yeah, I've seen some [film] with Dallas. They've been in some of the crossover games," Zimmer said. "Everson was a good player for us. I wish him well, just not this week."
Griffen racked up 74.5 sacks in 10 seasons in Minnesota.
In six seasons as a starter under Zimmer, Griffen tallied 57.0 sacks and earned four Pro Bowls from 2014-2019. He also had nine forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown), two interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) and a special teams score on a blocked punt.
"This is the best I've felt in a long time, and I got a little frustrated when I read that comment what Zimmer said, 'Oh, Everson was a good player,' " Griffen said. "Like, Coach Zimmer just wasn't a good coach, he was a great coach to me, so for him to call me a good player, that kind of hurts my feelings.
"On Sunday I'm really looking forward to playing the Vikings and showing them that I am a great player," Griffen added. "I'm excited, I'm ready to execute, my mental health is strong, my physical health is strong, my mind is strong, and I'm ready to go out there and dominate. I'm ready to create, adapt and go out there and win."
Griffen, who brought up Zimmer's comment multiple times during the session with Detroit and Twin Cities media members, was given heftier praise by others in the Vikings organization this week.
Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson, who was also Griffen's position coach with the Vikings, spoke about the defensive end's transformation to star player from 2014 on.
"He's physical, he's sudden, he's a violent rusher," Patterson said. "I think the thing that really helped him a lot is he sat on every word that I said, and he tried like heck to go out there every day and master the things that I was teaching.
"I think that played a huge part in him having the success that he had in a purple uniform, so I got nothing but great thoughts and feelings about Everson. He's very close to me, he always will be, I'm excited to see him on Sunday," Patterson added. "When they kick the ball, off I hope he doesn't play great against us, and I'm going to hope he plays his tail off in every other game after that, so hopefully he'll be a part of my life forever."
Sunday's game will be filled with storylines. The division rivals meet for the first time this season with Minnesota riding a five-game win streak in the series.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.
Both teams — the 3-4 Lions and 2-5 Vikings — believe a run in November can position them for a potential playoff spot down the road.
But as Thielen mentioned, with Peterson and Griffen back in town for the opposing team, this one should have plenty of extra juice, too.
"I don't want to speak for those guys but you talk about the talent, obviously it's there" Smith said about the duo's tenure with the Vikings. "I think the intensity is definitely, they're on par there and that's like the highest intensity you can get.
"It was great playing with those guys. Now they're on a different team," Smith said. "That's the opponent this week, but definitely a ton of respect for both of those guys."