Peterson, improved Vikings unsatisfied with season


Peterson, improved Vikings unsatisfied with season

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) If Adrian Peterson was going to return from reconstructive surgery on his left knee in time to play the full 2012 season, he had to hit that rehabilitation program hard.

Peterson and the Vikings reaped the benefits of his persistence and determination, with 2,097 yards rushing for him and an externally unexpected trip to the playoffs for the team.

This year, Peterson is injury-free, but he doesn't plan on letting up. His aim for the Vikings is to follow his relentless lead, hoping that dedication will pay off this year with more success than a 10-6 record and a one-and-done postseason appearance.

``I won't take much time off. Last year was a blessing in disguise for me because I had to start extremely early working out, and I see what the results were,'' Peterson said Monday as the Vikings cleared out their lockers and scattered for the winter.

The NFL's leading rusher by a long shot and a strong candidate for the Most Valuable Player award, Peterson said he'd resume training in less than two weeks. He also said he'd like to gather as many teammates as he can near his Houston home before formal strength and conditioning begin in Minnesota in late April

``I'm all in. I'm about to grind again this offseason and come back and be better than I was this year,'' Peterson said.

He's not even willing to take it easy in the Pro Bowl, where the collective effort of the all-stars is always in short supply. Peterson has already served Eric Dickerson notice that he's coming for that single-season record again, after falling 9 yards short. He's even raised the possibility of reaching the 2,500-yard mark, as unlikely as that might be.

If fullback and fellow Pro Bowl pick Jerome Felton, one of 10 unrestricted free agents on this year's team, is re-signed then perhaps that milestone is in reach. The bruising blocking by Felton and a young offensive line on which none of the five starters missed a game had a lot to do with Peterson's success. After signing a one-year contract for a $700,000 salary, Felton said he'd rather not have to test the market again. He told general manager Rick Spielman as much on Monday.

``This is where I want to be,'' Felton said. ``I told him that I want it to get done.''

Right tackle Phil Loadholt is another one of the important players with expiring contracts.

``I'm going to keep my arms around him this offseason as well, just to make sure he's staying on top of his game and he's working out and he's doing the necessary things to make someone want to bring you back,'' Peterson said.

There are other positions that will be scrutinized this spring as the Vikings reshape their roster, with changes likely at least at wide receiver and linebacker. Quarterback Christian Ponder isn't going anywhere, but more improvement is mandatory after another up-and-down year. He said his decisions in the Dec. 2 game at Green Bay when he threw two devastating interceptions were the moments that still stung.

``To let my team down, that's what hurt the most,'' Ponder said.

Last week was painful, too, when a deep bruise in his triceps from a hit he took in the Dec. 30 win over the Packers prevented him from playing in the rematch at Lambeau Field on Saturday. His right arm was still badly discolored from the bruising on Monday. The flexibility and range of motion around the muscle was still returning.

``No surgery or anything,'' Ponder said. ``Just giving it some time, and it will get there.''

The Vikings, like most teams, expressed impatience with their development, even though this season by all accounts went ahead of the rebuilding schedule. They weren't willing to merely accept more steady progress, realizing the way the open-then-shut windows of championship opportunity usually work in the NFL.

Peterson is an obvious plus, as are blossoming young standouts such as left tackle Matt Kalil, tight end Kyle Rudolph, strong safety Harrison Smith, defensive end Everson Griffen and kicker Blair Walsh. But perhaps the biggest advantage these Vikings have in their quest to win a Super Bowl is strong chemistry, as evidenced all year.

``We started out fairly well, had some success, then went through a little rough patch where we lost some games,'' left guard Charlie Johnson said. ``When that happens, the spirit can drop. But you never had that. You never had that sense in this locker room where guys seemed deflated.''

On other subjects:

- Defensive end Jared Allen said he'll wait until after the Pro Bowl to have surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum he's had for months.

``I've played with it all year. I'm going to at least enjoy the benefits of it right?'' Allen said, joking he aims to follow Peterson's rehab success: ``Maybe I can get 2,000 sacks.''

- Walsh said he'll take long snapper Cullen Loeffler to Hawaii with him to the Pro Bowl as a reward, unless Loeffler is a late addition to the NFC squad.

``As was our team being doubted before the season, so was he and the selection that they made,'' Loeffler said. ``He's done a tremendous job staying focused.''

- Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has two years left on his contract at more than $7 million per season, acknowledged the possibility he'll be asked to restructure his deal but said he'd like to add to his 10-year tenure with the team.

``I `m not going to worry about it,'' Williams said. ``We'll work something out if that comes up.''


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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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