Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer 397d

Adrian Peterson spent week preparing his body for another heavy workload

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Adrian Peterson got back to the Arizona Cardinals' practice facility late Sunday night and made an impromptu decision.

Instead of going home, he spent a couple of hours in the cold tub, starting the recovery process from a career-high 37 carries earlier in the day against San Francisco while simultaneously preparing his body for another heavy workload on short rest when the Cardinals host the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.

“I don’t do it every week,” Peterson said. “Just on a short week, or [I] kind of gauge it on how my body’s feeling. So, based on how my body was feeling, coming [in] after that game, I was like, ‘You know what? Let me go ahead and get ahead of the curve and get this one session in so my body can get refreshed.’”

That started a busy 24 hours for Peterson as he attempted to recover as quickly and as best as he could in time for Thursday night's game.

After contrast work Sunday, Peterson went through a workout on Monday that included his weekly squat routine that “flushed my legs from cardio.” Monday evening, he had work done on his body. He knew that the work he put in Sunday night and Monday would lead to a painful Tuesday. And he was right.

“I was definitely a little more sore,” Peterson said.

But he said his body feels fresh just in time for possibly another 30-carry game, which wasn’t the plan for Peterson on Sunday afternoon.

That plan has since changed.

After Sunday’s victory in San Francisco, coach Bruce Arians said the Cardinals “won’t be able to feed him that many times” on a short week. Arians wished the Cards were heading into a normal week so Peterson had more time to recover. Then Arians saw Peterson at practice Monday.

“He runs into walk-through,” Arians said. “He’s amazing. I wouldn’t challenge him in any form or fashion, saying, ‘You’re only going to get 20 [carries],’ because I’d probably have to fight him on the sideline.”

That led to Arians pivoting on his approach to Peterson this week.

“I would think the same as last week,” Arians said.

And that’s perfectly fine with Peterson. He’s ready if the Cardinals give him the ball 30 times a game – a plan they once had for David Johnson.

“Yeah, if that’s what it takes,” Peterson said. “Just do the things I need to do to make sure my body is ready to roll. If it’s 30, I’m all for it. If it’s 15, and that’s what they give me, then I’ll make those the best 15 I have.”

Peterson has given the Cardinals a new identity. Two years ago, they were known for their high-flying, vertical passing game that produced the most yards and second-most points in the NFL. Now, with their backup quarterback starting, their (other) star running back injured and without a clear-cut No. 2 receiver, Arizona has rebranded itself as a run-first team.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin is on board with that, even if that means Peterson gets 30 carries a game.

“That means less passing,” Goodwin said.

“He’s played long enough. He knows when he needs to tap out or get a blow, or if it’s too much, I’m sure he’ll communicate that to me, B.A. or [running backs coach] Freddie [Kitchens]. It was awesome to watch [Sunday].”

But Arians feels like Peterson could’ve been better than 159 yards on 37 carries against San Francisco.

“He just has to be a little more patient as a runner,” Arians said. “It’s hard for him to be patient. He’s in full gallop and if he’s just a little more patient, I think he’s going to see some things as we continue to run it even better.”

If anyone will tell Peterson, a surefire future Hall of Famer, to be more patient, it’ll be Arians, Goodwin said.

“I’m of the tree of, ‘Don’t mess with greatness,’” Goodwin said. “I’ll let B.A. do that. Obviously, we all have an opinion of where he should put it. I really don’t care as long as he comes out the other side with three to four yards and keeps moving the chains.”

Arians thinks Peterson will “thrive” as the focal point of the Cardinals’ run-first offense.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was quick to get on board with rebuilding the offense around Peterson.

“We have to get the ball to Adrian,” Fitzgerald said. “Let him feed and then we’ll open up the passing game and have some opportunities. He’s the linchpin right now. When we get him going, it just opens up so many explosive plays for us.”

Peterson has two 100-yard games in the three since was traded to the Cardinals on Oct. 10. Part of that was due to his skill. Part was due to his ability to learn the playbook as quickly as he did, Arians said.

Then there are the other factors Arians didn’t know about until he started coaching Peterson.

“Genetics,” Arians said with a chuckle. “He’s a freak of nature.”

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