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Peterson, improved Vikings unsatisfied with season

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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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Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Dwayne Haskins played really well Sunday against the Eagles, and it wasn't just on certain drives or in specific situations. Haskins put together a complete and encouraging performance in Week 15, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

But the Redskins' coaching staff, and most notably Kevin O'Connell, should be praised as well for setting Haskins up to shine versus Philly.

Here are three things O'Connell and the offense did at FedEx Field that contributed to the rookie's best effort as a pro.

They were more aggressive on early downs

The following two things are true: 1) Bill Callahan loves Adrian Peterson, and 2) Adrian Peterson has a legitimate shot at rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season. Because of those two facts, it felt like Sunday was setting up to be the Peterson Show, especially on first down.

It wasn't, though, and that greatly benefitted Haskins.

No. 7 found Terry McLaurin for a nine-yarder to start the contest, a throw that allowed the QB to settle into a nice rhythm from the start. The 75-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to McLaurin was also a first down toss, one that featured play-action:

A first down pass in the second quarter, meanwhile, led to a defensive pass interference that advanced the ball 14 yards. On that possession, Haskins would eventually find Steven Sims for a score. 

Throughout the matchup, the Burgundy and Gold seemed more comfortable with trusting Haskins to attack the Eagles, and that's something he very much enjoyed.

"I hope to continue to do it," he told reporters postgame.

They targeted Steven Sims a bunch

Want another example of O'Connell's influence over the gameplan? Look no further than how much Sims was involved.

Overall, Sims was targeted 11 times, and while he only hauled in five of those passes, he's a guy worth looking to often. O'Connell has talked for weeks now about how much he wants to use Sims, and while it may sound odd to say that an undrafted receiver from Kansas deserves lots of chances on a unit that includes McLaurin and Peterson, it's true.

He's really difficult for defensive backs to stay in front of and he's shown a penchant for making some tremendous grabs, including his toe-tapper for his first career receiving TD on Sunday.  

"I'm seeing everything and I'm playing faster," Sims said in the locker room. 

O'Connell and Haskins are seeing him, too, and his larger role is giving Haskins another weapon to rely on.

They introduced a creative option play

In addition to the uptick in aggressiveness, the Redskins also were more creative against the Eagles than they had been lately. The best example of that is the option they introduced and executed perfectly on two separate snaps.

On the first option, Haskins fake-tossed it to Peterson before lateraling it to him a second later. The fake from Haskins was a nifty way to buy more time for the play to develop and it set Peterson up to pick up a first down:

They went back to it again in the third quarter, but this time, Haskins kept the ball and cut upfield for a 23-yard gain:

Watch any NFL game on any weekend, and you'll see offenses trying new concepts and surprising defenses with those concepts. In Week 15, the Redskins were finally one of those offenses, and the group as a whole was the most effective its been under Haskins. And for that, both the player and the staff should be recognized.

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

The entire Donald Dell interview with Mark Lerner can be seen Tuesday, December 17, at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

For seven seasons, the Nationals and Bryce Harper enjoyed a happy marriage that included four NL East division titles, an MVP award and the respect from the rest of the league as legitimate playoff contenders year in and year out.

But principal managing owner Mark Lerner knew their relationship might not last forever. In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Donald Dell, Lerner talked about how the team balanced making a business decision with the personal side of hoping to extend Harper when he hit free agency last offseason.

“We all like Bryce but at the end of the day, there’s the economic factor, there’s other factors that come into it: clubhouse, interaction with teammates, everything you could imagine in a decision about a free agent,” Lerner said.

Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which at the time was the record for the most expensive contract in MLB history. The Nationals reportedly made him an offer for 10 years and $300 million that included $100 million in deferrals at the end of the 2018 season.

“He [was] a free agent for a reason, he earned that right,” Lerner said. “It’s his decision and his family’s decision where they play. And he chose to move on. He obviously got an incredible offer.

“Everybody seems to forget it’s not just a bidding war to get the players, the player has to want to play here and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

By the time Harper signed with Philadelphia in early March, the Nationals had already reported to Spring Training with starter Patrick Corbin signed to a six-year, $140 million deal as well as a slew of new faces on the roster that had joined the club through free agency. Lerner said Washington never heard back from Harper and didn’t want to wait for him to make a decision.

“We were moving down a different path at that point anyhow,” Lerner said. “Because, as you may recall, Bryce had not given us a response through his agent Scott Boras and we had decisions we had to make so we didn’t get caught waiting too long for him to find out we can’t get other players to replace him.

“And our choice at that point in time was either wait for him or we had the opportunity to sign Patrick Corbin. And we chose to sign Patrick Corbin and get another great starter, which has worked out great, and it was really more us at that point to say, ‘We have to move on.’”

The Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019 while Harper posted an .882 OPS with 35 home runs in 157 games for the 81-81 Phillies. But as division rivals, Harper and the Nationals will see each other plenty over the next 12 years he’s locked into Philadelphia.

Only time will tell which side ends up wondering what could’ve been.

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