Zimmer wants to reduce hits on Peterson

MINNEAPOLIS -- We've heard a bit about new Vikings offensive coordinator's plan for Adrian Peterson, and how he'd like to get the 2012 NFL MVP the ball in the open field more often, to accomplish the twin aims of giving Peterson room to run and reducing the toll on the 29-year-old's body.

Based on what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had to say a few minutes ago on ESPN's NFL Insiders, it sounds like Turner's plan has been approved.

Speaking with Chris Mortensen, Ed Werder and Bill Polian from the NFL owners' meetings in Orlando, Zimmer said the Vikings would like to run Peterson "into a few less bodies, so there’s not 11 of them hitting him. That’s part of the thing about opening the field up, spreading the ball around a little bit, getting the ball in space."

Peterson had logged more carries against eight-man fronts during the last two seasons than any running back in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and when Turner's had running backs like Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson, he's made a habit of getting them involved in the passing game. Peterson's best season as a receiver came in 2009, when he caught 43 passes from Brett Favre. Former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's inability to reduce the clutter in the box, partially through his own use of bunch formations, was a source of some frustration in a few corners of the Vikings' organization. Based on Turner's history -- and Zimmer's endorsement -- that shouldn't be a problem next year.

"I’m watching a game the other day, and the two safeties are just creeping closer and closer (to the line of scrimmage)," Zimmer said. "This guy’s getting hit a lot. He’s a fantastic runner, and if we can get him in space, he’s going to do a lot of damage."

Zimmer also said he'd talked with former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who's been outspoken about comparing himself to Johnny Manziel. The Vikings have the eighth overall pick in the draft in May, and while it remains to be seen whether they'd take Manziel if he's available in the draft, it should come as little shock they're doing their homework on him. "It's still going to come down to how we feel about how he's going to be in the locker room, what kind of a person he's going to be, what kind of a leader, and then go from there,"