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Vikings' Peterson with runaway performance on field, and in voting

NEW YORK -- Adrian Peterson is impressed. Not so much by his achievements, though he ran away with The
Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting the same
way he surged past opposing tacklers this season.
What has gotten
the attention of the Minnesota Vikings running back is whom he joins
as winners of the award.
"It's a great honor to join a list with names like those,"
Peterson said Wednesday when told that Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith,
Eric Dickerson and Billy Sims also won the award. "They are guys
that I looked up to growing up. It's a goal that I set before the
year started, to win rookie of the year, so it feels great to
accomplish that."

Peterson, who set the league mark for rushing in a game with 296
yards in a 35-17 victory over San Diego, also had a 224-yarder in a
win against Chicago. The key to Minnesota's improvement to an 8-8
record this season, he led the NFC with 1,341 yards rushing, second
only to San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson in the league. His 78
points on 13 touchdowns were second in the conference.

Those numbers, compiled in 14 games, and his overall impact --
the Vikings struggled to pass the ball, yet were in the wild-card
race until the final game -- earned Peterson 46½ votes
from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the
NFL. Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas was the only other player
receiving votes, 3½.

"I added to things they already had," Peterson said. "I am a
playmaker. That's why I say if there is anything I could do to put
me out there, just put me out there.

"I wanted to come in and be a difference and help the team turn
around. I came with the attitude to do whatever I had to do to get
on the field."

Peterson was not a starter until the sixth game, a week after
his big performance against the Bears. While veteran Chester Taylor
opened the first five games and was coming off a strong year, it
was clear that Peterson could be a difference-maker.

So coach Brad Childress had to turn him loose.

"From an early time, a week after the draft when we had about
50 free agents in here, you knew he was going to be a special
guy," Childress said.

The seventh selection in the draft, Peterson brought some
durability issues with him after suffering several injuries at
Oklahoma. He did miss two games with a knee problem and wasn't
particularly effective for much of December when he returned to the
lineup.

But at his best, Peterson was as good as any rookie runner the
league has seen; halfway through the schedule, he was on pace to
break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. And even though he slowed because of the injury, Peterson had
little competition for the award.

"I knew what I was bringing to the table. I'm pretty sure those
guys knew by drafting me," Peterson said. "I came in with the
attitude to just contribute any way I could. Get in game shape and
be valuable to play."

Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin played at Texas and faced
Peterson each season. That Peterson was the NFL's top offensive
rookie was no surprise to Griffin.

"I knew what he possessed. He's just a great back, and I
respect that of him," Griffin said. "I don't think he needs any
praises, because he knows that he has that capability of carrying
this team. He's been doing a great job, and everyone knows that."

Now, Peterson is ready for some R&R. Sure, he'd prefer being in
the postseason, but with the Vikings eliminated, there's nothing
wrong with some time to recharge.

"I got to get away and just relax," he said. "It feels like
I've been on a world tour for so long since I started playing in
the league. But this is what it's all about. This is what you dream
about when you were little. But it's definitely going to feel good
to get some time to relax my mind."

Peterson is the fifth Viking to win the award, joining Paul
Flatley in 1967, Chuck Foreman in 1973, Sammy White in '76 and
Randy Moss in 1998. Only Foreman was a running back; the other
three were wide receivers.

Last year's winner was Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.