NFL Wire News

NFL OTA roundup: Peterson rejoins Vikings on field


The Sports Xchange

In their only day of open access to the media during organized team activities (OTAs) this week, several NFL teams made it easy to find the news by celebrating a comeback of one type or another.

The Minnesota Vikings’ comeback story was so compelling the team added Tuesday as an access day so reporters could cover the return of running back Adrian Peterson, who was on the commissioner’s exempt list and reserve/suspended for all but two games last season. He played one game and was inactive for the other.

Three quarterbacks also made comebacks of varying degrees at Tuesday’s OTAs, including Sam Bradford practicing with the Philadelphia Eagles’ first team; the Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr throwing passes for the first time since injuring a finger on his right hand; and Johnny Manziel working for another shot with the Cleveland Browns.

Peterson’s return was by far the most dramatic after the three-time All-Pro was the subject of controversy last season when commissioner Roger Goodell put him on the exempt list when it was learned the running back punished his son by spanking him with a stick.

Here is a closer look at news from NFL teams with open access during Tuesday’s OTAs.

–Minnesota Vikings: An apologetic Peterson returned to Winter Park for the Vikings’ second week of OTA practices. He was greeted by open arms and hugs from teammates and coaches. He practiced, allowing offensive coordinator Norv Turner to fool the defense with a play-action deep pass on Peterson’s first snap since he was exiled from the team and the NFL when a Houston grand jury handed up an indictment on child-abuse charges the Friday before the Vikings’ Week 2 game last September.

And then Peterson faced the media for 19 minutes. He is likely to score even more points with a skeptical and sour fan base for the remorseful tone he took and for admitting multiple times that, “I made a mistake” for the injuries he caused when he used a wooden switch to discipline his 4 1/2-year-old son.

“The first person I apologized to was my son,” Peterson said. “That was right after the situation took place, when I realized what had happened. I apologized about the mistake that I made. It wasn’t my intentions. And I’ve been trying to move forward since. I made a mistake, and I don’t take that lightly.”

Peterson said he missed last week’s OTAs because of a personal commitment. Head coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings made no contractual concessions to get Peterson to show up, but added, “I’ll always fight for my players.”

–Oakland Raiders: Carr appears to be making his way back to the field. The second-year quarterback threw a few short passes to running backs during drills, but he was a spectator during live team sessions at OTAs on Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, Carr didn’t practice at all, and last week he took a few snaps but restricted his activities to handoffs and pitchouts.

Carr has an injured right ring finger, according to ESPN, but neither Carr nor the team has confirmed that. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said it is club policy not to discuss injuries during the offseason with regard to nature, severity or a timetable on when an athlete might return.

By being unable to throw, Carr has been denied the chance to develop timing with a new offense that features new receivers in first-round draft pick Amari Cooper and free agent acquisition Michael Crabtree.

–Philadelphia Eagles: Bradford ran the first-team offense Tuesday in his continued recovery from ACL surgery and corresponding assimilation to the starting job with his new team.

Bradford, acquired from the St. Louis Rams in a trade for quarterback Nick Foles, is recovering from a second surgery in as many years to repair a torn knee ligament. Wearing a sleeve on his left knee, Bradford rotated with holdover Mark Sanchez in seven-on-seven passing drills Tuesday.

“I think he’s right on schedule in terms of where he is,” coach Chip Kelly said last week of Bradford’s health.

Sanchez said he was promised a chance to compete for the No. 1 job when he opted to return to the Eagles, signing a two-year deal as an unrestricted free agent in March.

Tim Tebow, who signed last month, and Matt Barkley, who held the No. 3 job to begin the 2014 season, are competing for the No. 3 spot in OTAs.

–Cleveland Browns: Contrary to an Internet report that grabbed headlines last week, the Browns are not ready to give up on Manziel.

The OTA session on Tuesday was the first open to the media since Manziel threw a water bottle in the direction of a heckling fan Saturday at a hotel pool in Irving, Texas.

Asked to comment, coach Mike Pettine dismissed the water-bottle incident as “a non-story.” No charges were filed, no one was arrested, and according to the Irving police, no written police report was filed.

Pettine also responded to a report on ESPN Cleveland claiming the Browns are moving on from Manziel with Josh McCown as the unchallenged starter.

“I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on outside the building, but when it potentially can drive a spike between the staff and the team, I have issues with it,” Pettine said.

“To me, to talk about how a team has potentially moved on from a player or he’s not in the plans, it’s just irresponsible. We’re just teaching basic offense, and we’re going to get to the point where (when) a certain player is in there, we will tailor a game plan to match their strengths, so I thought he has done an outstanding job so far, grasping what we’re doing.

“I thought he made some real nice throws today and he’s had his days where he’s struggled, but that’s natural. One, learning a new offense, and two, going against a defense that is significantly ahead simply due to chemistry and cohesion and knowledge of the book, so I think we all feel good about where he is.”

–Kansas City Chiefs: Footwork is on the mind of quarterback Alex Smith during the Chiefs’ offseason program.

Smith is concentrating on being more consistent in his throwing mechanics. Even going into his 10th NFL season, the fundamentals remain a work in progress.

“Footwork is something that never goes away; you are constantly trying to get better with your feet,” Smith said. “For me, it’s about working to be more consistent whether under center or in the (shotgun). It’s something tha when looking at the tape from last year I was all over the place.

“(Footwork is) really so important to quarterbacks. It’s the foundation of throwing, and I’m working to get to a point where I’m consistent with that. I think with that you are more balanced, and over the long haul you are going to complete more balls and throw better balls. I’m trying to be as efficient as I can.”

Over nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Chiefs, Smith has completed 60.4 percent of his throws, but in his past 41 games, he improved to 66.7 percent. Last season, he turned in one of the most successful passing seasons of his career, completing 65.3 percent of his attempts.

–Pittsburgh Steelers: A key concern in the spring for the Steelers is to rebuild a defense that fell far from being the dominant force that characterized the team for decades.

Former linebackers coach Keith Butler replaced longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau this year, and he will be forced to count on plenty of youngsters to come through for him, albeit those with strong college resumes.

They include two first-round draft picks at linebacker, Jarvis Jones on the right outside and Ryan Shazier on the inside. Both were hurt last season but showed some promise beforehand. There also is cornerback Cortez Allen, who signed a five-year, $26 million contract before last season and then was benched for poor performance halfway through it.

There is more. Stephon Tuitt will open his second season as the starting left defensive end. Senquez Golson, a rookie second-round pick, could wind up playing in the nickel defense. Shamarko Thomas, entering his third season, will try to replace Troy Polamalu at safety. The Steelers traded a third-round draft pick in 2014 in order to draft him in the fourth round in 2013, but he has been hurt and disappointing so far.

–Green Bay Packers: The Packers jumped back onto one of their outdoor practice fields Tuesday for the second week of OTAs with encouraging news.

Defensive back Damarious Randall, the Packers’ first-round draft pick this year, took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time. Randall had been relegated to position drills since his arrival in Green Bay in early May because of an ankle injury.

“It’s good to get him in the team stuff and get him past the individual (work),” coach Mike McCarthy said.

Randall missed most of the team’s rookie orientation camp a week after the draft because of the injury. The Packers’ medical staff also held him back during the opening week of OTAs.

Randall is being converted from a college safety at Arizona State, where he excelled as an athletic playmaker the last two years, to a cornerback. Randall projects to contribute initially in the slot, though he could contend for the starting spot on the perimeter vacated by the free agent departure of longtime starter Tramon Williams.

Randall is the only member of Green Bay’s eight-player draft class who is unsigned.

Green Bay’s defense also had veteran outside linebacker Julius Peppers in action Tuesday after he was sidelined last week with an illness.

Rookie quarterback Brett Hundley, a fifth-round draft pick, made his first appearance in front of Packers fans Tuesday. Hundley missed the OTAs last week, as he attended the NFL Players Association’s Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles with new teammate Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver.

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