MINNEAPOLIS -- Adrian Peterson says a first-half sideline exchange Monday night with coach Sean Payton was simply Peterson suggesting the New Orleans Saints run the ball up the middle, which they then did.
At first, Peterson said the brief exchange, video of which circulated on the internet during the game, was "confidential" and "just communication."
"One thing I said to him was, 'Hey, let's run this inside zone.' And we came out and we ran that," said Peterson, who joked that he might have been yelling, "I love you!"
Peterson then took to Twitter in reply to a SportsCenter tweet, reiterating the nature of the exchange.
Let's be clear...I said we need to run the ball up their Donkey. Nothing more. I'm passionate but respect my coach at the same time— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) September 12, 2017
Payton, meanwhile, said he didn't recall any sort of heated exchange with Peterson on the sideline and credited him for being into the game.
"Listen, I'll tell you if we were in a heated exchange," Payton said. "... None that I can recall, and I am being honest."
Peterson was adamant that there was nothing simmering between him and his new coach, who was seen turning around and replying to the seven-time Pro Bowl running back before continuing to walk down the sideline.
"There's no conflict," Peterson said. "Let's not try to spin it like there is."
Peterson said he has a lot of respect for Payton and the Saints' offense.
"He's a great mind," Peterson said. "So we're gonna learn from this. ... It's no issue. And we have bigger fish to fry."
Peterson didn't hide from the fact that his much-anticipated return to Minnesota was a letdown, as he finished with six carries for 18 yards and no catches.
He got the first two carries of the night -- for gains of 9 yards and 1 yard -- as the crowd mostly booed his return to the place where he spent the first 10 seasons of his career. That first run turned out to be the highlight for Peterson, who was used less and less as the Saints became more one-dimensional.
"Of course it's tough. I'm your ultimate competitor. It was tough. But I knew the type of situation I was coming into. So at the end of the day, we just gotta figure out how we can just do better," Peterson said of his timeshare with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara in New Orleans' pass-heavy offense.
Payton, when asked if it was difficult to rotate three running backs into the game flow, said: "It only becomes difficult when you become one-dimensional. And that happened too early in the fourth quarter."
Peterson, asked to evaluate his performance, said it was difficult to with his limited involvement.
"I don't know. I'll have to look and see," Peterson said. "What was it, like nine snaps? Eh. Not too much to evaluate."
Peterson is more of a base-down runner, while the Saints prefer Ingram and Kamara in the passing game. For Peterson to get more touches, the Saints will have to be in position to run the ball more -- either protecting a lead or exploiting a certain game plan. Neither was the case Monday night, as New Orleans ran the ball 21 times for just 60 yards (2.9 yards per carry).
Peterson was the primary receiver on a play-action pass inside the 5-yard line during the second half, but Minnesota's defense snuffed it out.
"They just did a great job," Peterson said of the play. "... Good call by the defense. You know, Zim [Mike Zimmer] is a great defensive-minded coach."
When asked if his highly touted return to Minnesota was embarrassing, Peterson said no.
"It's not embarrassing because there's things that we can fix. And I see that for what it is," Peterson said. "So it's not embarrassing or anything like that. We had opportunities, and we just didn't execute."