Adrian Peterson on if he'll be ready for Week 1

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Adrian Peterson on if he'll be ready for Week 1

From Comcast SportsNet
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -- The NFL season starts for Minnesota on Sept. 9, barely eight months after Adrian Peterson had reconstructive surgery on his ripped-up left knee. Despite the medical advances that have made comebacks from anterior cruciate ligament quicker than ever, Peterson's return for the opener against the Jaguars was always on an optimistic timetable. But for the star Vikings running back, that hasn't really been a goal. Belief is more like it. "Despite what everyone else had to say, that was my vision," said Peterson, who also tore the medial collateral ligament when he was hit during a game last Dec. 24 at Washington. "I knew it was going to be a journey, a path, to get closer to that vision, and I'm closer. I see it. It's closer now. It was far away in the beginning, but I've been working hard and just moving forward. "So hopefully here in a couple weeks -- here in a couple weeks, not hopefully -- that vision will be right there in front of me in my lap." Peterson has cleared every hurdle in his rehabilitation either ahead of time or on schedule. As nervous as the Vikings must be -- and as skeptical as some observers around the league might be -- he is probably as capable as anyone of taking the ball right at his tacklers without hesitation in Week 1. "You don't really want to put parameters on his rehabilitation. You want to just let it go and see where it takes us," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Our medical staff talked all along about what this process would look like and what's necessary. We're in that process right now, so we still have to take it day by day." Despite the evolution of the league into a passing-dominated game, Peterson is far too valuable for Minnesota (No. 29 in AP Pro32) to risk him getting hit the wrong way in some meaningless drill. He wore full pads in Tuesday's practice for the first time since his injury, but Frazier went out of his way to warn the defense not to touch him. On Peterson's first carry, he realized this wasn't going to be a normal play. "These guys are definitely not going to put their hands on me. I didn't really like that too much," he said. The defensive players light-heartedly complained to their coach that Peterson is usually the one delivering the punishing hits. "One of the things they told me was, Coach, you know how he runs. What about protecting us?' Frazier said. "He's not going to change his running style, we all know that, but they have to be smart out there and they know that." Peterson smiled when asked if he'd be letting up at all. "Oh, I'm going to lower my shoulder," he said. "Those guys are probably going to get tired of touching off and tired of me putting my shoulder into them. They'll start firing back, which is pretty much what I want them to do." His first contact will come later this month, maybe in practice next week or in the team's third preseason game Aug. 24 against San Diego. As offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave put it, Peterson "has to go through the mental gymnastics as well as the physical part." So far, so good. "We're all just amazed seeing him move and even cutting like he's always done," Frazier said, recalling a video review at the start of training camp of some offensive highlights from last season that included Peterson before he got hurt: "I came up to him and said, Can you see yourself in your mind being able to do that again?' He said, Coach, I can do that right now if you let me.' In his mind, there's nothing wrong."

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.