Dec. 20, 2006
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -Adrian Peterson's teammates at Oklahoma have a new reason to stay away from the bruising, record-setting tailback.
Peterson is back in practice after missing seven games with a broken collarbone, but some of the Sooners have been a bit reluctant to test whether he's fully healed.
"There's a couple guys that's been kind of hesitant to come up and hit me, so I've been hitting the ground a couple times and lowering my shoulder thinking I'm about to take on contact," Peterson said Wednesday, addressing reporters for the first time in two months.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Peterson refused to wear a blue jersey that would make him off-limits to contact. But Peterson has relented and worn a yellow cap over his helmet, which points out to defenders that he's recovering from an injury.
Boise State doesn't figure to take it easy on Peterson in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
"Plenty of time has passed," Stoops said. "According to doctors, with that break he is no different right now than any other player just being susceptible to breaking it. Just like anyone, if you fall on it wrong, he or anyone else could break it."
Peterson, the 2004 Heisman runner-up, was the nation's No. 2 rusher when he injured himself on a fourth-quarter touchdown run Oct. 14 against Iowa State.
A junior, Peterson is considered a likely first-round pick in next year's NFL draft if he decides to turn pro. He said the possibility of jeopardizing his future wasn't a factor when he decided to return.
"I've been playing the game since I was 7," Peterson said. "A lot of guys are speculating, saying this, saying that he's not coming back and all that. Why should he play? But I love the game. That's why I play."
Peterson's college career started in record-setting fashion when he reeled off an unprecedented nine straight 100-yard rushing games. He set an NCAA freshman-record with 1,925 yards rushing and became the first freshman to finish as high as second place in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Injuries have been a problem since then. A sprained ankle kept him out of several games last season and made him a non-factor in a loss to Texas. He also dislocated his left shoulder in fall practice before his freshman year, re-aggravated the injury during the regular season and then had surgery in the offseason.
He had 935 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns through six games before the injury this season. Oklahoma (11-2) won all seven of its games without him, including the Big 12 championship, to earn the matchup with 12-0 Boise State.
Peterson needs only 150 yards to match Oklahoma's career rushing record, held by 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims.
"It's crazy how everything happened, breaking my collarbone. It was never anything I really thought about because I had eight more games to play, it was only 150 yards," Peterson said. "Now that it's here and it's presented itself, it would be nice to go out and get the record."
Beyond that, Peterson is undecided on his future and the NFL draft.
"I haven't came to no decision as far as coming out," Peterson said. "I love the players, I love all the coaches, the guys I'm around."
Peterson said he has talked to former Oklahoma teammates, who have told him how much faster play in the NFL can be. He has also weighed concerns about being injured and considered the business side of professional football.
"You can make it difficult on yourself if you want to. I hear different things from family, friends, guys on the team," Peterson said. "What it boils down to is it's my decision, what I feel like is best for me."
Peterson said he plans to meet with Stoops in the next few days, but won't make a decision about his future until after the Fiesta Bowl.
In recent years, safety Brodney Pool and defensive tackle Tommie Harris have left Oklahoma after their junior seasons to go to the NFL.
"My whole time that I've been here, I try and just make sure the players have accurate information," Stoops said. "Where I feel players make a mistake is when they listen to people who don't know."