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Vikings Defenders on Facing Adrian Peterson in 2017 Opener

The reunion of returning Vikings players at Winter Park for voluntary offseason workouts began last week, but Tuesday's news of Adrian Peterson signing with the Saints steered talks during media sessions toward another reunion. 

It just so happens that the Vikings will open the regular season by hosting the Saints on Monday Night Football as part of a prime-time doubleheader to cap the NFL's 2017 Kickoff Weekend.

Fans and former teammates might do a double take before adjusting to the new relationship.

"It will be different," said Brian Robison, a 2007 NFL Draft classmate of Peterson's. "It will definitely be an electric atmosphere with it being Monday night and the first game of the year and Adrian back in a different uniform.

"It will be a little bit different, but you can't make it more than it is. It's another football game," Robison added. "You've got to go out there and do the best that you can do in order to put yourself in position to win."

Robison, a Texas product, played against Peterson, an Oklahoma alum, for three seasons in college but cooled the Red River Rivalry emotions once they became teammates. That, however, doesn't mean there wasn't some occasional chatter.

"We never got to tackle Adrian in the time that I've been here with the Vikings, so this will be different," Robison said. "Adrian has always said he feels like he could run on our defense, and our defense has always said, 'You wouldn't run on us,' so something's got to break on Monday night."

Everson Griffen, a fourth-round pick in 2010, said it's always tough to see a longtime teammate go, but he is looking forward to the opportunity.

"We always talked about it, because we were never able to touch him during practice," Griffen said. "So you always had to run by him and tag off, but I think it's going to be a fun opportunity now, because every time we do, I'm going to be like, 'Ohh, I can't wait.'

Griffen joked about the schedule makers having a "little inside scoop" that Peterson would sign in New Orleans when they constructed the schedule, which was released last week after league officials went through more than 52,000 versions.

"I don't know the odds of that … but it is what it is, and our team's going to be ready," Griffen said. "We're going to prepare each and every week, and not just to face Adrian Peterson but to face a whole team. This is a team game, the best team game, and we have to go out there and play for four quarters and be able to beat these guys when the time comes."

Datone Jones, a new addition to the Vikings defensive line after four seasons with the Packers, said Peterson was "hands-down the hardest running back we had to stop, the hardest running back we had to prepare for because of his patience."

Jones said Peterson's ability to start and stop, his vision, strength and speed make him a challenge that requires multiple defenders.

"I know all the guys here weren't allowed to hit him," Jones said. "He's a very passionate player, and I know he's going to be ready for Monday Night Football."* *

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes said he and the secondary will be prepared if they need to lend a hand with Peterson as well. Rhodes said he appreciated the opportunity to learn from Peterson's "experience and testimony" of several seasons.

"We know how important he was to the team, but it's a different mindset when he's on the opposite side," Rhodes said. "We have to do what we have to do to stop him from being Adrian Peterson."

Rhodes said he doesn't expect much trash talk from Peterson during the game, but added that the running back might be more vocal than usual.

"This game is probably going to be a little bit emotional for him, but it's a moment thing," Rhodes said. "Whatever happens in that moment, you don't know how he'll feel in that moment. He might be the one talking trash. You might see a new Adrian or you might not. You might see the same Adrian that's going to bust out a run or get stopped and get frustrated."

Peterson, who was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Vikings, ranks 16th in NFL history with 11,747 rushing yards. In 10 seasons with Minnesota, he made the Pro Bowl seven times and was league MVP after rushing for 2,097 yards (second-most in a season) in 2012.

Fourteen of Peterson's 102 offensive touchdowns have been 60 or more yards, including five rushes of 78 or more yards.

Selected seventh overall in 2007, Peterson was the first player the Vikings picked after General Manager Rick Spielman arrived in Minnesota as Vice President of Player Personnel the previous May. Spielman, who hosted his annual pre-draft press conference for reporters on Tuesday, credited Peterson for his accomplishments in Purple.

"Adrian to me, since I've been here, is the greatest Minnesota Viking to ever put on that uniform," Spielman said. "He's a Hall of Fame player. He will go down in history as one of the greatest rushers in the NFL, if not the greatest. Unique individual. Great person. We were very fortunate and feel very blessed that we were part of, for the most part, his entire career here in Minnesota."

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