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The only thing you can say about the Vikings’ season opener is that they dominated the New Orleans Saints in every facet of the game. Sam Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards. (That’s an 84.4% completion percentage and a QB rating of 143.) Stefon Diggs caught 7 passes, including 2 for touchdowns, worth 93 yards. What’s frightening is that he wasn’t the best wideout on the field for the Vikings. That was Adam Thielen. Thielen walked on at D-3 Minnesota State, Mankato. Then he wasn’t drafted so he tried out for the Vikings. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Tonight, Thielen caught 9 passes worth 157 yards.

Rumor has it that former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was in the house tonight. Rumor also has it that future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees was in the house tonight, too. Adrian’s first run was his longest of the night. It was for 9 yards. Brees played valiantly but it wasn’t nearly enough. He didn’t throw for a touchdown until New Orleans had all but officially lost.

The national media played up the Adrian Peterson vs. Dalvin Cook matchup. That wasn’t fair … to Adrian. While Adrian rushed for 18 yards on 6 carries, Dalvin Cook ran the ball 22 times for 127 yards, including a 33-yard run on third-and-7 that sealed the game:

The other major story from tonight’s season opener was the Vikings’ offensive line play. They protected Sam Bradford. They opened holes for Dalvin Cook. You know the line is playing well when the QB completes 85% of his passes and 8 of those completions were for more than 20 yards. The Vikings ran the ball 28 times and averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry. There were lots of Vikings fans that worried how they’d play. I’m one of them.

The offensive line had 5 new starters. Berger moved from center to right guard to make room for Ohio State rookie Pat Elflein. It’s easy to see why the Vikings traded up in this year’s draft to pick him. That kid’s got lots of Pro Bowls in his future. The free agent tackles played well at times, though Remmers still had some unsteady moments. LT Riley Rieff played a strong game.

The thing that’s obvious is that this unit is significantly more athletic than any offensive line during the Zimmer era. During the game, they flashed a graphic that said tonight’s opening game was the first time those 5 players played together. It certainly didn’t look that way.

Notice what I haven’t mentioned thus far. I haven’t mentioned the Vikings defense. That isn’t because they didn’t play well. There’s no denying that Brees was fairly productive. He threw for 273 yards and a late touchdown. Everson Griffen got the Vikings only sack of the night. That doesn’t come close to telling the story, though. The Vikings’ secondary contested every throw Brees made. The defensive line surrounded Brees much of the night. Brees felt claustrophobic all night, like he was throwing from inside a phone booth.

Next up for the Vikings are the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Let the trash-talking begin.

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Anyone who’s been a Vikings fan the last 20+ years knows that Adrian Peterson’s performance in 2012 is a performance for the ages. That’s the year Adrian rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-most rushing yards in an NFL season. The reason why that’s part of AP’s mystique is because he did that less than a year after tearing his ACL in the fifteenth game of the 2011 season. When Adrian announced that he’d start Game One of the 2012 season a week after he had surgery to repair his knee, the experts laughed.

According to the splits for his 2012 season, Adrian is 4 rushing yards ahead of that year’s pace this year. Here’s the game-by-game split of Adrian’s 2012 season:

According to these NFL-certified stats, Adrian Peterson had 957 yards rushing after 9 games in 2012. This year, Adrian Peterson has 961 yards rushing after 9 games. This year, the Vikings finish with a home-and-home series against the Packers, road games at Atlanta and Arizona and home games against Seattle, Chicago and the Giants.

Right now, Adrian is on pace to reach 1,708 yards rushing. In my estimation, that gives Adrian at least an outside shot at breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. If AP rushes for 2,000 yards, which I think is, at worst, a 50-50 proposition, that’d mean he’d become the only runner to twice top 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. To reach 2,000 yards, it’s likely that Adrian would need at least one more 200 yard rushing game.

Right now, Adrian is tied with O.J. Simpson for most games with 200 yards rushing in a single game. They’re tied at 6 games with 200 yards rushing. The next time Adrian tops 200, which might be this Sunday against the Packers, he’d break Simpson’s record.

Suffice it to say that it’s going to be a fun year watching the Vikings, especially with Adrian Peterson having a shot at so many rushing records.

There’s a flood of positivity flowing through Winter Park this morning. That’s because Adrian Peterson is back at Winter Park:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Adrian Peterson is coming back to the Minnesota Vikings, telling The Associated Press that he will participate in the team’s voluntary practice on Tuesday and still has love for his team after nine months away.

Peterson sent an e-mail to the AP early Tuesday morning saying he’s excited to put on a uniform again after missing the final 15 games of last season while addressing child abuse charges in Texas. He also skipped the team’s voluntary practices last week while openly lamenting the fact that the final three years of his contract are not guaranteed.

“I’ve been away from the game for an entire season,” Peterson wrote to the AP. “I wanted the chance to be around the players and coaches, the guys that really matter to me.”

Teddy Bridgewater just improved as a quarterback. Mike Zimmer became a smarter head coach. Norv Turner is wearing an ear-to-ear smile and Mike Wallace dreams of all the single coverage he’ll see this season. There’s a difference between quality starters and Pro Bowl players. Then there’s the difference between Pro Bowl players and true superstars. Adrian fits in at the top of the ‘true superstar’ category. There isn’t a defensive coordinator who isn’t revising his game plan if he’s facing the Vikings this season.

Last year, Teddy Bridgewater had an impressive rookie season. Still, there’s no denying he’s still got lots to learn. His learning curve isn’t as inclined as it was a month ago thanks to Adrian. Play action passes against defenses with 9 men in the box are more like pitch and catch routines. Last year, defenses didn’t take the Vikings running game seriously. They didn’t take Teddy’s play action fakes seriously, either. That changed this morning.

One of the sneaky smart things that the Vikings did this winter was trade for speedster Mike Wallace. When he was asked if Mike Wallace was good at double moves, Norv Turner said that Wallace was fast enough that he didn’t need a double move. There was a smile on Turner’s face at that point. I’m thinking about the cat-that-ate-the-canary type smile.

This morning’s news officially makes the Vikings a potential playoff team.

Months ago, the Vikings football people (primarily GM Rick Spielman and Coach Mike Zimmer) made it clear that Adrian Peterson would finish his career with the Vikings by essentially saying that he’d either play out his contract with them or they’d put him on the involuntary retirement list.

According to this post, Ben Dogra, Peterson’s agent, essentially cried uncle:

Adrian Peterson’s agent is no longer saying he wants out of Minnesota. He’s now saying he wants more money to stay in Minnesota.

Ben Dogra, who has previously said it’s not in Peterson’s best interest to stay with the Vikings, now says that he understands the Vikings will not get rid of Peterson.

“One of the things that I appreciate with the Vikings is their resolve to say ‘we’re not trading him,’” Dogra told USA Today. “That tells me they value him not only as a football player, but what he’s done for the organization. I actually, as an agent, not only appreciate it — I accept it. But actions speak louder than words. If that’s going to happen, and you want to keep him, then show him a commitment to make him retire as a Viking. And I haven’t had that solution.”

Simply put, that’s what it sounds like to hear an agent admit he’s lost this fight. Now it’s time for the Vikings to welcome Adrian back, get him on the same page as QB Teddy Bridgewater and receiver Mike Wallace.

Adrian won’t recognize the defense. They’ve improved significantly since his last game against the Rams. Last night, they improved the defense more by drafting the best cornerback in the draft in Trae Waynes of Michigan State. With 2 more days of the draft left, I won’t be surprised if Spielman finds an offensive lineman or 2 plus a linebacker to improve the Vikings on both sides of the ball.

Check out Scott Wright’s list of best available players for tonight’s part of the draft. There are 4 players on Scott’s list that would be plug-and-play guys with the Vikings, including 2 offensive linemen, on Scott’s best available list.

With the NFL offseason in full swing, gossip columnists like Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and ‘journalists’ like Adam Shefter of ESPN have run a nauseating amount of articles about Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Florio has been particularly annoying on that front.

His near-daily posts about what that day’s news means in terms of whether Peterson will be a Viking next opening day is a display of how the NFL encourages media coverage whether there’s anything to report on or not. (There usually isn’t.)

Yesterday, there genuinely was news on the Peterson front. The NFL finally reinstated him after putting him on the Commissioner’s naughty boy list. The Vikings issued this brief statement on Peterson’s reinstatement:

“The Minnesota Vikings have been informed by the NFL that Adrian Peterson has been reinstated. We look forward to Adrian re-joining the Vikings.”

Immediately, the ‘Will Adrian be freed and traded to the Cowboys?’ stories littered the internet again. The answer to that question is simple. Adrian will be traded if another NFL team blows them away with an offer.

Rick Spielman, the Vikings GM, has repeatedly and steadfastly said that they’re looking forward to seeing Adrian lining up behind future superstar QB Teddy Bridgewater. Why wouldn’t he want that? Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL. The last 4 years, he’s been the only offensive weapon the Vikings had. That’s why it’s astonishing he’s been incredibly productive. He’s been the only threat the other team’s defense has had to identify and stop.

That’s meant having 8 or 9 men within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage on, at minimum, 80% of rushing plays. This offseason, the Vikings added Mike Wallace, once the premium deep threat pass catcher in the NFL. Imagine how thrilled he’d be consistently getting man coverage while the defense focuses on Adrian. Imagine the explosiveness of the Vikings offense with Teddy Bridgewater emerging as a Pro Bowl QB with a full set of weapons.

Spielman’s message to other NFL teams has been simple. Adrian’s under contract to us for the next 3 years. If you want him on your team, you’ll have to blow us away with a great offer. If we don’t get that type offer, we’ll just have to figure out a way to use Mr. Peterson.

If Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants Adrian Peterson playing his home games in Dallas, he’d better put together a great offer. If he doesn’t, Adrian Peterson will remain a Viking.

Bill Polian, the architect of Buffalo’s, Carolina’s and Indianapolis’s Super Bowl team, has been all over the Ben Dogra/Adrian Peterson soap opera this entire winter. Matt Vensel, one of the Strib’s Viking beat writers, wrote about Polian’s conference call where Polian addressed the situation for the umpteenth time. Here’s what Polian said:

“I’ve had a lot to say on this subject on [ESPN’s NFL] Insiders,” he said. “Let’s take away the hypotheticals for a moment and say the following: Despite anything his agent may say to the contrary or his, quote, people, whoever they may be or say to the contrary, the following are the facts. He has a valid contract, a multi-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings. And if the Minnesota Vikings decide that they want him to play football for them, he will play football for them or play football for no one.

“So I think that is a fact. It’s very clear-cut. It’s black and white, despite any protestations to the contrary. Secondly, if you were to be interested in trading for him, that means that the Vikings control the ability to move him. No one else. So there is no third party interaction here. This is a question of whether or not the Vikings want to trade Adrian Peterson to someone else. So I think those two sets of facts have been lost in all of the noise that surrounds this situation almost since last January.

“The third part of the equation is where does he stand with the league? I presume that question will be answered at some point in the foreseeable future. But it has not been answered yet. And that certainly affects any potential trade. I hasten to add that if the Vikings would be willing to entertain one — and they have said just the opposite, at least from where I can tell recently — trying to determine what’s fair compensation for him in a trade assumes that the Vikings would be willing to enter into such a transaction. Not that someone else decides that it should take place.

“So compensation is [Vikings General Manager] Rick Spielman’s call, and I’m not going to farm his land. The fact of the matter is that he has a very, very fair contract, in my opinion, from his perspective. He’s the highest-paid back in the league, I believe. And he has a multi-year contract. So he would be ostensibly available for three more years if any team ever trades for him. To me, that mitigates whatever his age is. He’s also had a year off, which is probably for a running back a good thing. So the extent that his age is a factor if you were going to move him, I don’t think it is a factor because he’s under club control for the next three years.

“Could you make a trade for anybody on the clock? Of course you can. But the question of whether or not that player will report is another issue. And that’s unknowable at this time. I would be, as a general manager, I’d be very wary given what’s gone on up to this point that he would report and honor that contract. I would have concerns about that if I were trying to make a trade.”

This is essentially the same answer Polian has given ever since Ben Dogra, Adrian Peterson’s agent, started shooting his mouth off about the subject.

To the fans, Ben Dogra is a villain. To Vikings GM Rick Spielman, he’s just a pain in the arse. Dogra is doing what Adrian wants him to do. To his credit, Spielman is playing hardball. That’s the right response to the situation. If Spielman can swing a trade that nets him a first round pick that he can turn into Todd Gurley, that’s fantastic. If he can’t, then Spielman should call Adrian and tell him he’s expected to show up for the mandatory mini-camps. He should also remind Peterson that non-participation will cost him $45,000,000 in salaries that he won’t collect and it’ll force him to write a check for $2,400,000 for the signing bonus he didn’t earn.

I’m betting it won’t come to that. No player is stupid enough to turn his back on $50,000,000. No agent would advise his client to forfeit that money, especially considering the fact that Adrian’s salary pays Dogra’s commission.

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The most over-hyped story in the NFL offseason has been the drama whipped up by Ben Dogra, Adrian Peterson’s agent. It surpasses the hyperventilation surrounding Chip Kelly trading up to the 2nd pick to draft Marcus Mariota. While it’s possible that one of those trades happens, the chances that both things happen are about as likely as Kate Upton proposing to me.

I get it that Dogra is representing his client. That’s his first responsibility. Rick Spielman’s first responsibility is to build a championship football team in Minneapolis. The best way to do that is to give Teddy Bridgewater a bunch of weapons who can score from any place on the field. Putting Adrian behind Teddy is a major step in that direction. Putting a rejuvenated Mike Wallace on the outside is another positive step in that direction.

That isn’t to say trading Adrian is foolish. It’s saying that it’s foolish unless Spielman gets a king’s ransom for Peterson. Earlier this week, former Colts GM Bill Polian quantified what a king’s ransom would be if he were the GM. When asked what it’d take, Polian abruptly said “multiple number ones”, as in more than 1 first round pick. I totally agree. I don’t think it’s likely that there’s a team out there willing to pull the trigger on that type of trade but that’s the starting point for the Vikings.

If I’m Rick Spielman, I wouldn’t trade the best running back in the game for a second- or third-round pick. The other GM would hear me start laughing if he offered that type of compensation. I’d point out that, despite Dogra’s daily protestations, Peterson is still under contract for 3 more years.

Frankly, I’d tell Dogra that there isn’t a trade market out there and that his client’s only option for playing this year are with the Vikings. Honestly, I’m certain that Dogra knows this. There just aren’t many teams that can fit Peterson’s $15.4 million cap hit into their budget and pay the Vikings enough in talent and/or draft picks.

The Cowboys can’t afford that capwise, especially after signing Greg Hardy to rush the passer. They’d have to give up their first round pick this year plus either Zack Martin or the Cowboys’ 2nd round pick. There’s no way the Cowboys would do that.

The Cardinals have the flexibility capwise but they’d have to give up the 24th pick in the draft plus Tyrann Mathieu and a second day pick to get Peterson.

The bottom line is simple. The Vikings hold all the cards in this. Either Adrian plays for the Vikings or he retires. Considering the fact that Adrian can make $40,000,000 over the next 3 years, I just don’t see Peterson walking away from that payday.

The other factor that hasn’t been talked about by the media is the fact that Adrian watched Teddy last year. He was impressed with Teddy. Why wouldn’t he want to play for a team that’s on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender in the NFC North? That doesn’t mean I think the Vikings would win the Division this year if Adrian returns. I’ll say, though, that they’d have a pretty strong shot at it their first year in the dome.

Judge Doty’s 16 page ruling in the NFLPA’s lawsuit on Adrian Peterson’s behalf against the NFL contains some bombshell statements. This part of Judge Doty’s ruling is particularly stinging:

Moreover, Henderson’s conclusion that the New Policy is consistent with the previous Policy is contradicted by the Commissioner’s own statements in which he acknowledged that the New Policy included “changes” to the Policy. See, e.g., id. Ex. 65, at 1 (“I made a mistake. I’m not satisfied with the process we went through, I’m not satisfied with the conclusions. And that’s why we came out last month and said: we’re going to make changes to our policies. We made changes to our discipline.”); see also id. Ex. 35, at 99:21-100:15.

At the heart of the NFL’s defense was that the Commissioner had great latitude in determining Adrian Peterson’s punishment.

Judge Doty’s ruling didn’t just criticize Commissioner Goodell. It criticized Henderson, too:

The NFLPA next argues that Henderson exceeded his authority by adjudicating the hypothetical question of whether Peterson’s discipline could be sustained under the previous Policy. The NFL responds that the NFLPA submitted that issue to Henderson. The record belies the NFL’s argument. The NFLPA submitted to Henderson “the pure legal issue” of whether the New Policy could be applied retroactively. NFLPA Ex. 122, 21:22-22:24; see also id. Ex. 20, at 4. Nothing in the record supports a finding that the NFLPA asked Henderson to determine whether the discipline imposed was consistent with the previous Policy.

In other words, Harold Henderson tried justifying his decision by saying that the NFLPA asked him to. That isn’t the only time where Judge Doty criticized the NFL’s arbitrator:

Henderson was an NFL executive for nearly two decades and apparently continues on in a part-time capacity, earning $2.5 million in compensation from the NFL since 2009.

This footnote was found at the bottom of Page 8 of Judge Doty’s ruling. This information, by itself, isn’t damning. The fact that Henderson’s ruling sounded like the NFL’s press release, coupled with his less-than-impartial ruling, however, all but state explicitly that Henderson was Commissioner’s self-appointed hatchet man against Adrian Peterson.

ProFootballTalk stated that the NFL hasn’t had a good year in the courts. That’s what happens when a tyrant thinks he has the authority to make the rules up as he goes. That’s what third world dictators get away with. High profile CEOs of major corporations don’t get away with that very often.

This afternoon, the Minnesota saw the difference that a great quarterback makes. This afternoon, Teddy Bridgewater became the face of the Vikings, running for a touchdown while completing 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards. This was the first time a Vikings quarterback threw for 300 yards since the year Brett Favre took the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.

Bridgewater’s play, though, wasn’t the only noteworthy accomplishment for the Vikings’ offense. This was the first game the Vikings quarterback threw for 300 yards, a Vikings runner ran for 100 yards and a Vikings receiver got more than 100 yards receiving in the same game since Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice turned the trick against Detroit on 11/15/09. This time, Touchdown Teddy threw for 317 yards, Jerrick McKinnon ran the ball 18 times for 135 yards and Jarius Wright caught 8 passes for 132 yards.

It’s gotta be intimidating for the Packers, the Vikings opponent this Thursday, to think that the Vikings offense cooled off in the second half because they still gained 207 yards in the second half. The Vikings gained 351 yards in the first half.

For the second straight game, the Vikings’ opponent threw tons of exotic blitzes at Bridgewater. For the second straight game, Bridgewater handled it like a veteran. It’d be wrong to highlight the fact that Bridgewater had tons of time thanks to his offensive line playing their best game since 2012. Then again, Atlanta’s defense will never be mistaken for the original Steel Curtain defense led by Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, LC Greenwood and Mel Blount.

The offensive line of Kalil, Johnson, Sullivan, Ducasse and Loadholt dominated Atlanta’s defensive line. McKinnon gained an average of 7.5 yards per carry. Matt Asiata scored 3 rushing touchdowns, with McKinnon and Bridgewater each scoring a rushing touchdown, too. The Vikings gained 241 yards rushing on 44 carries. That’s a 5.5 yard per carry average.

I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a hellish week for Atlanta’s D-Line. They were dominated. They got manhandled. They forced 2 punts the entire day. Atlanta’s defense gave up 558 yards of total offense while letting Jarius Wright had a career day receiving and Vikings receivers seemed to be open all day.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk briefly about the Vikings defense. Statistically, it wasn’t a great day. They gave up 411 yards of total offense. They gave up 2 explosive touchdowns in the third quarter. Still, they turned up the heat when they needed to. Rookie first round pick Anthony Barr called the defensive signals today while finishing with 5 tackles and the Vikings’ only sack. After spending lots of time in Coach Zimmer’s doghouse in the preseason, third year corner Josh Robinson essentially finished the game with a great interception down the sideline. Harrison Smith finished with 5 tackles, too, and a 4th quarter interception of Matt Ryan.

Atlanta has too many weapons to be stopped. Still, the Vikings came up with the key stops when they needed them.

It’s too early to make predictions about how many games the Vikings will win this year now that the Bridgewater Era has started. It isn’t too early to say, though, that Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner are putting this team together the right way. Turner’s offense looked positively explosive today. Zimmer’s defense played hard-nosed football. They were opportunistic, too.

Finally, the Vikings have a new face of the franchise in Teddy Bridgewater. What’s fun to watch is that the game seems to play out in slow motion for him. It’s also fun to watch his arm talent, too. Teddy’s the real deal.

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When it comes to public embarassments, Mark Dayton wrote the book on the subject. Now he’s calling Adrian Peterson’s behavior embarassing:

It is an awful situation. Yes, Mr. Peterson is entitled to due process and should be “innocent until proven guilty.” However, he is a public figure; and his actions, as described, are a public embarrassment to the Vikings organization and the State of Minnesota. Whipping a child to the extent of visible wounds, as has been alleged, should not be tolerated in our state. Therefore, I believe the team should suspend Mr. Peterson, until the accusations of child abuse have been resolved by the criminal justice system.

However, I will not turn my back on the Vikings and their fans, as some have suggested. The Vikings belong to Minnesota – and in Minnesota. This has been the team’s only home; and our citizens, including myself, have been its most dedicated fans.

Like many of his worst moments, Gov. Dayton’s statement will give thoughtful people intellectual whiplash. First, he says that Adrian Peterson is entitled to due process and “should be ‘innocent until proven guilty.'” Next, Gov. Dayton said that the Vikings should suspend him until he’s had his day in court.

That doesn’t make sense. What happens if Peterson is found guilty? At that point, the NFL has the right, under its personal conduct policy, to tack on an additional suspension. That additional suspension might be indefinite, meaning Adrian Peterson will have been suspended twice for a single offense.

Actually, that might not be legal because of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association. If that’s the case, Gov. Dayton might’ve just told the Vikings to ignore the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners.

I don’t doubt that Mark Dayton will react by saying that he didn’t know about the particulars of the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement. That’s shameful. This was a prepared statement. His staff should’ve done their research. They should’ve known about this provision in the NFL-NFLPA CBA.

The governor of a state should known what he’s talking about. Unfortunately, Gov. Dayton hasn’t done what smart governors have done. He’s shot his mouth off for political purposes, only to have to walk his statements back.

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