Spending three weeks on the sideline watching his Minnesota Vikings appears to be about all Adrian Peterson can take.
Peterson said on Thursday that he plans to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday despite being only about 85 percent healed from a sprained left ankle that has caused him to miss three straight games.
He wants to be there for his teammates, who have found a new way to lose seemingly every week to fall to 2-11; for his coaches, who have been receiving plenty of criticism during this massively disappointing season; and for all the fans who are counting on him to help them in their fantasy football leagues.
"It's very important, especially for my fantasy team owners," Peterson joked. "They've been giving me a hard time on Twitter. But just being out … seeing my guys go out and fall short week after week and just wishing I was out there to help those guys compete."
Peterson suffered the high ankle sprain against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 20. After making him the highest-paid running back in NFL history in the offseason, the Vikings didn't want to risk their investment by rushing Peterson back in a season in which the playoffs were not an option.
But Peterson never thought about taking the rest of the season off to make sure he's fully recovered.
"I love this game, so no matter if we were 2-11 or whatever, if I'm healthy I'm going to go out and play," Peterson said. "That's been my mindset from the beginning. Three weeks off, I'm going to be a part of it."
His teammates aren't the only ones eager to see him back. Peterson said fantasy owners have pestered him every week with questions on Twitter.
"Should we play you this week? Please!" Peterson said with a chuckle. "Some of the stuff I read on there is crazy."
Quarterback Christian Ponder's hip pointer has improved as well, so coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings are expecting to have everyone available for the game against the Saints (10-3). Peterson will be evaluated again on Friday, but all signs are pointing to him returning to the field.
"The way he's moving around, some of the things that really concerned him a week ago at this time don't seem to concern him much, nor does it concern us," Frazier said. "So if he has another good day (Friday), we should be in the clear."
Frazier said the fact that Peterson still wants to play even though there is nothing left for the team to play for speaks volumes.
"A superstar like him, he's going to achieve what he wants to achieve," Frazier said. "The fact that he wants to get back and play with this football team speaks very highly of who he is as a person. He wants to finish this season with his teammates."
Peterson said he still feels some soreness when he cuts and plants, but not enough to prevent him from wanting to play.
"I'm like 85 percent," he said. "But I'll be able to take the pain and whatever it is that comes with it."
As the losses stack up, so does the frustration with a few key players on offense and defense. …