Adrian Peterson, Running back
FOR MUCH of the off-season, the Vikings' superstar tailback worked on ball security, a nagging issue in his three otherwise dynamic seasons. Peterson has fumbled 20 times in the regular season and did so twice in the Vikings' NFC title game loss to New Orleans; he also misconnected with Brett Favre on a handoff inside the Saints' 10 at the end of the second quarter. "Right there on the goal line, that cost us," Peterson says of that giveaway, which was officially ruled a Favre fumble. "Sometimes I get too loose with the ball."
Part of Peterson's fumbling is a function of his confrontational running style. He seeks out contact, throwing out forearms even as he races downfield. In his signature run of the 2009 season, against Cleveland in Week 1, Peterson broke five tackles in a 64-yard touchdown dash. Along the way, he dished two stiff-arms, including one in which he tossed Browns cornerback Eric Wright over the left sideline with the heel of his right hand.
Those flourishes, however, have sometimes been canceled out by the fumbles, and never more so than with a Super Bowl berth at stake in New Orleans. "To get that close and fall short was something to learn from," Peterson says. "It was motivation to pinpoint things I could work on." Like becoming more aware of the defenders around him while not changing his violent running style. "It's just keeping [the ball] high and tight," says Peterson. "In traffic, when guys are coming at me full speed and I'm making cuts, it's just being fully aware of that."