MINNEAPOLIS -- Following a rookie season in which he lost four fumbles, gained only 641 yards and saw his season end with a microfracture in his knee, Melvin Gordon knew right where to turn to prepare for his second year.
Gordon had picked No. 28 because of Adrian Peterson. He needed a big year after a knee injury, and like Peterson, he needed to clean up his fumbling issues after his rookie season. On Wednesday, as Gordon spent time in Houston before the Super Bowl, he credited his summer with Peterson as the key to his impressive second season.
"It definitely gave me a lot of confidence rolling into the season," Gordon said of his time with Peterson and trainer James Cooper in Houston last summer. "I just came in, and mentally and physically, I feel like I was just ahead of everyone. Sometimes that's all you need to take off."
The Los Angeles Chargers running back replaced the injured Le'Veon Bell on the AFC Pro Bowl roster, after gaining 997 yards, rushing for 10 touchdowns and catching another 41 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He missed his final three games because of injuries, but still finished 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, while fumbling only twice.
Gordon worked during June and July with Peterson at his O Athletik gym in Houston, sprinting in the city's oppressive summer heat and running up a 40-degree hill before lifting weights for hours. When the two running backs worked to eliminate their fumbling issues, Cooper punched at their arms with boxing gloves while each man tried to run against the weight of a 430-pound tension cable. Then, he took them to an exercise mat for a drill derived from Brazilian jiu jitsu, where each would maintain possession of a football while tumbling over a balance ball and landing on his feet.
This summer, Gordon said, he'll be going back to train with Peterson again.
"It's the hardest thing, but if you want to produce and make it happen, sometimes you've got to suffer a little bit," Gordon said.
Peterson played just two games in 2016 after tearing his right meniscus on Sept. 18 against the Green Bay Packers, and it remains to be seen whether the 31-year-old running back will return to the Vikings, who hold an $18 million team option that includes a $6 million roster bonus on Peterson for 2017. Gordon, though, said he hopes Peterson is back among the league's rushing leaders in 2017.
"I want to compete against him; he's one of the best to ever do it," Gordon said. "We'll see -- Zeke [Elliott] has the [rushing] crown now, and [Peterson] had it, so now with him actually being there, we'll see who can really take the crown from the guy who was the top dog and had the crown, and he won't get hurt. I hope he stays healthy throughout the season, and we'll really see who the king is."