We have all seen it happen: The running back takes the hand-off inside the red zone, cuts to his right, and is immediately grasped by the defender. But instead of simply making a form tackle, today's NFL defenders often wrap up and make a play for the ball.
If it isn't secured, out pops the prized possession and what ensues is like seeing kids scatter after candy from a broken pinata.
Nicknamed A.D. ("All Day") by his parents for his hyperactive nature as a child, and later by coaches, Peterson has exploded on the NFL scene. The prized seventh overall pick out of Oklahoma by the Minnesota Vikings won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2007 and has punished opposing defenders since.
However, after Peterson's rookie year in '07, he has led the league among all running backs in the one stat no one wants—fumbles.
In '07, Peterson had 238 attempts with 1,341 yards, 12 touchdowns, and four fumbles. He followed that stellar season with 363 attempts and a league-leading 1,760 yards, 10 touchdowns, and a league-high nine fumbles in 2008. This season, he carried the ball 314 times for 1,383 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six fumbles (highest among all running backs).
Clearly, Minnesota has taken the overwhelmingly good with the bad.
“You’re either part of the problem or part of solution," Minnesota head coach Brad Childress told Scout.com. "He’s been a great part of the solution and helping us win.
"Touch it as many times as he does, somewhere it’s going on the ground."
A.D.'s lone knock coming out of college surrounded his susceptibility to injury. He started 22 of the 31 games possible in his three years at Oklahoma, bursting onto the scene his freshman year and placing second in the 2004 Heisman race. Now he has a new knock—putting the ball on the ground.
Peterson is a punishing running back that fights for the extra yards. Some might point the finger at that as the cause of his fumbles. He continues to fight for those precious inches and, in the mob, he gets the ball stripped. I would like to say this is the only reason—but it isn't.
Peterson also gets the ball punched out of his arm as well. In one infamous run against the Detroit Lions this season, he broke a long gain and was running free until a defensive back chased him down and punched the ball out of his right arm, fumbling the ball into the end zone as the Lions recovered for a touchback.
He has even admitted that sometimes he carries the ball too low. For a 6'1", 217-pound running back, carrying the ball high is his best option.
"Sometimes I see the fumbles where I see guys punching it out and then during the game I’ll be like, ‘I don’t know how that ball can come out,'" Peterson told Scout.com. "It’s just little things like, carrying the ball too low at times, is something that I point out and focus on when I’m in practice—keeping it high and tight and if you do that in practice it will roll over in the game."
The team, players, fans, and even Peterson know he has to work on his form while running before he can ever achieve his goal.
"I want to be the best there is and ever was," Peterson told NFL Fanhouse when asked what he wants to achieve. "I don't just want to be the best running back that has ever played football, I want to be the best player to have ever played football."
At this point in his career, there is little doubt that his ultimate wish is attainable, but in order for him to rise above everyone else, Peterson might want to take a note from his own nickname and practice carrying the ball—all day.
This article was originally posted on PeteProse.com .