The men in front of Adrian Peterson

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Thursday was Adrian Peterson day at ESPN.com. We brought you Jeffri Chadiha's Hot Read profile of Peterson's pursuit of history, a ranking of the top 10 individual seasons in NFL history, a chance to rank those seasons yourself and a photo gallery.

To that list, let me add a nod toward the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line and the role it has played in Peterson's season. (We've already noted the performance of fullback Jerome Felton in several posts.)

[+] EnlargeJohn Sullivan
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsVikings center John Sullivan says winning has made the team's rushing success more enjoyable.
The Vikings are one of four teams that have started the same five offensive linemen for all 15 games this season. Two of them, center John Sullivan and left tackle Matt Kalil, have had Pro Bowl-caliber seasons. (Sullivan earned a first-alternate status and Kalil is a second alternate.)

Over the past two weeks, I've checked in with all five starters -- Sullivan, Kalil, right tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco -- for their thoughts on what this season has been like for them. Here they are, in their own words:

Left tackle Matt Kalil

"Adrian is a great player and explosive runner, and obviously one of the hardest workers in our locker room. It's been fun. It's been fun all year. Every game, you get that highlight run. It's been special to see.

"I take a lot of pride in it. The offensive line as a whole, I think we take pride in him rushing for over 150 yards per game like we've done so many times this season. We're definitely very prideful of it, and it will be an even bigger accomplishment if we can get him to break that [Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record] this week."

Center John Sullivan

"The best part is the success we've had rushing the ball has helped us win. It's nice when we're able to break long runs. But a lot of times, they've come early in games, and we've been able to set the tone for a successful day on offense.

"Blocking for a guy who is a home-run threat is awesome. I loved it in the St. Louis game [in Week 15]. He was able to crease the line on that 82-yarder early. I was able to see that no one was going to catch him. So you can just start walking. As an offensive linemen, it's pretty nice when the play goes so well you can just walk down to kick an extra point."

Left guard Charlie Johnson

"It's been fun, especially coming off last year. There weren't a lot of fun times last year. To be able to come out even as a team and have a little bit of success and be a part of what Adrian is doing, that's what you hope for.

"Adrian is the definition of a downhill runner. Being new here last year, I hadn't been around that before. It takes some time to adjust.

"People are always asking what Adrian might do for us after the season. This sounds like a cliché, but I'm just doing my job. I get paid pretty well to do what I'm doing. But at the same time, I'm not going to turn anything away."

Right guard Brandon Fusco

"For a lineman, there is a lot of pride in seeing your back get near 2,000 yards. It obviously hasn't happened much in the history of football. Blocking for Adrian is amazing. He's a great player, a special player. It's really special to see him, after the injury he had, come back and perform like he did. We take to heart everything he does. We've got his back and he's got ours. I'm just glad he is on our team. He makes us look good with his cuts. I'm really happy for him.

"I come from a small school [Slippery Rock]. When I got here, I had never really seen a player like him. It was just, 'Wow,' at first, to see how athletic and special a player he is. He makes all the reads and the cuts and all the quick decisions he makes, it's just amazing.

"His cuts are hard. I never seen a back cut so hard. He's so physical. He's a big running back. He's a downhill runner. He's not afraid to run over you, either. That's what is so special about him. He's pretty much a fighter rat running back. He'll fight for a yard for anything. We like that."

Right tackle Phil Loadholt

"It's been a lot of fun, and we're always pulling for him to keep doing what he's doing.

"He gets to the hole as fast as I've ever seen. Not only that, but he has good vision to make cuts and things like that. You just look at it and see his anticipation. It makes our job that much easier and makes you want to work that much harder for him.

"He is always letting us know how much he appreciates us after every big game, practice and everything. He's always letting us know. He has always been a guy that respects what we do and understands the relationship.

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