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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Rookie Zach Line thrown into Adrian Peterson's path


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has said before he prefers to be alone in the backfield.

But that was before the violent runner’s miraculous 2012 season, which brought fullback Jerome Felton to the Pro Bowl.

However, with Felton suspended for the first three games in 2013, Peterson will line up behind a slew of players on Sunday that includes undrafted rookie fullback Zach Line.

“He just gives me advice like, ‘get out of the hole,'” Line said. “A couple of years ago he was against having a lead blocker, but now that we do, he wants you to just go. He doesn’t want you slowing him down in the hole.”

The odds stacked against him, Line was the only undrafted rookie to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster. His two touchdowns, including a 61-yard catch-and-run, helped, but Felton’s suspension cleared Line’s path.

“I think [Line] has been here long enough to know how we do things, to kind of adapt to the offensive line and my running style as well. So I try to stay in his ear,” Peterson said. “I try to tell him, think like a running back. Don’t get too caught up in the X’s and O’s. Sometimes just go out there and play football.”

Line does get caught up in the schematics, though, as he takes home his team iPad to not only study the playbook, but go over Felton’s game tape since he can’t be on the field with him during the suspension that began Aug. 31.

A combination of Line and tight ends Rhett Ellison, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph will mix into the backfield to open up running lanes for Peterson or create extra pass protection for quarterback Christian Ponder.

“[Line] has really improved. He’s still not quite where we’d like for him to be, but he’s improved a lot,” Coach Leslie Frazier said. “He showed us in the preseason, which is one of the reasons that he made our club, that he could be a good lead blocker. I think he’ll do an adequate job for us on Sunday but it’s an area that he’ll continue to work on.”

‘It was a big year for me’

Cornerback Bobby Felder’s standout preseason was just what he needed to prove himself, but a non-serious, yet still devastating, injury ended his chances at a regular season.

A stockpile of impressive plays included pass deflections, punt returns and downing two punts inside the five-yard line, but Felder was placed on injured reserve after a high ankle sprain removed him from the preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.

“I felt like it was a big year for me,” Felder said. “With a whole year under my belt, in my second preseason, felt like I got a lot better from my first one. I’m still a work in progress right now.”

Already speaking in the past tense, Felder knows his season is over after being placed on IR without the new, one-time only use of the ‘designation to return’ tag, which allows one player from each NFL roster to return from IR during the season. However, the player must be designated to return before being placed on IR. Felder was not.

Suffering from only an ankle sprain, the Vikings are likely using IR in a way to stash Felder on their roster after he showed significant promise this offseason. The only way Felder can play this season is by agreeing to an injury settlement with the Vikings and parting ways.


The encore

Kicker Blair Walsh’s rookie campaign couldn’t have gone any better than it did.

His league-leading 92 percent conversion rate, including 10-for-10 from beyond 50 yards, landed him in the Pro Bowl.

After setting the bar so high, is he worried about falling short this year?

“No, you don’t really think about it,” Walsh said. “Don’t think about certain stats that happened or are going to happen. You treat each one as it’s own situation. If you look at it and approach it that way, I think you’re going to be fine.”

One critical difference is rookie punter Jeff Locke, who will be holding for Walsh after veteran punter Chris Kluwe was released this offseason.

Locke had some shaky holds in the preseason, but Walsh said he’s more confident and more comfortable in his second year, even with the new guy.

“[Locke] is a pretty mentally strong guy,” Walsh said. “His mental fortitude is solid. He doesn’t get too down when he has a bad punt or a bad hold, he doesn’t get too high either.”

Late hits

•Defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday and has not suited up since unexpectedly taking a low blow to his right knee in the third preseason game at San Francisco on Aug. 25.

•The injury report stayed the same from Wednesday, the only change being safety Harrison Smith (back) went from limited to full participant. Also, quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson returned from an illness.

•Defensive end Jared Allen is fresh off multiple offseason surgeries and said at age 31, he feels better than ever. “I feel good. If you would’ve asked me last year, I would’ve said [the internal age clock] was ringing like Big Ben. I was beat up, I was hurt, you start wondering, is age getting the best of you? But after surgery, after getting healed up, I feel great.”


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