Adrian Peterson dismisses everyone who doubts his ability to be a receiving threat with a chuckle.
The fact that arguably the greatest ball carrier of his generation is now teammates with record-setting Saints quarterback Drew Brees only raises his confidence in his ability to finally silence those who doubt that part of his game.
“It’s always funny to me because I’ve been playing this game since I was 7, and a lot of people, they say, ‘He can’t catch the ball,'” Peterson said Tuesday afternoon, following New Orleans’ first practice of mandatory minicamp. “I can catch a football.”
The reason he hasn’t been among the league’s top receivers out of the backfield during his 10 NFL seasons, he said, is because the Minnesota Vikings, the only other team for which he has played, “didn’t use me that way.”
But Peterson was also quick to point out that his two most productive seasons catching the ball were when he was teammates with Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre. He had 43 catches for 436 yards receiving in 2009, including one reception that went 63 yards. In 2010, he caught 36 passes for 341 yards.
“It’s all about having a guy that’s going to get the ball to you,” Peterson said, later adding. “I’d be lying to say it’s not nerve-wracking to hear people say, ‘He can’t catch the ball. What is he going to do in this offense, because they pass so much?'”
Brees has been throwing to Peterson periodically since offseason practices began, and it doesn’t sound like Brees just viewed it as an experiment.
“Any time you can get him in space against a smaller DB, look out. Good luck tackling that guy,” Brees said after a practice earlier this month. “He’s going to be able to do stuff in this offense he hasn’t done … just because we require some versatility from that position.”
Peterson, 32, says he is fully fit following a knee injury — specifically, a meniscal tear — that sidelined him most of last season. He said, if anything he’s worried more about his waistline because of how much he enjoys the food in New Orleans. He finds char-grilled oysters, which tend to be cooked in butter, particularly tough to resist.
He said his body fat percentage measured around seven or eight when he arrived in New Orleans and it went up closer to 10 after his first couple weeks in town. He said he’s since tried harder not to indulge as much, but it’s not easy.
“It’s so delicious,” Peterson said. “It was something I was looking forward to coming here. Just the food, the culture and the people — great people here. It’s been an amazing experience so far.”
He’s also salivating over the prospect of playing with Brees, who he calls, “Amazing.”
“It’s taking a lot of pressure of my shoulders,” Peterson said. “He’s here. He’s established. He’s that guy here. Having a future Hall of Fame quarterback. That is a game changer. That alone.”
Peterson said players like Brees, Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, tend to have more success throwing to running backs because they see the whole field so well, where as many other quarterbacks, “when they go through their progression, they’re stuck on one side. They’re not seeing the backside check down or me leaking out in the flat.”
In Brees, Peterson said, the Saints have a QB who “knows everybody’s position and where they’re supposed to be. You’ve got a guy that’s not worried about a 60-, 70-yard throw every time. It’s about moving the chains and making sure your offense is productive. So that would be the big difference.”