Adrian Peterson (Kevin Brown/Viking Update)
Adrian Peterson’s recovery took another step forward Tuesday with his return to a full-pads practice. His “vision” of playing in the regular-season opener “will be right here in my lap,” he said, but coaches are being cautious about his return.
Adrian Peterson put on the pads for a Vikings practice Tuesday afternoon for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in December, but the Vikings are taking a deliberate, cautious approach in acclimating him back into the lineup.
Peterson was in for about 10 plays with the offense during full-team drills but took only two carries in the full-pads session. Head coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings will take an incremental approach to his return from Dec. 30 surgery.
“That’s the word we used last night when we were discussing it, just giving it to him in ‘increments’ along the way and not trying to bring it all back in one or two practices,” Frazier said after Tuesday morning’s walkthrough. “We’re going to try to be smart about it and we have to listen to his feedback as he tells how he’s doing and how he’s progressing.”
Frazier told his defensive players that they need to treat Peterson differently when he’s on the field in his first few “full-contact” practices. He is not to be taken to the ground.
“I definitely talked to them about it and now we’ve got to adhere to it,” Frazier said, but he relayed an interesting response from some of the defenders. “One of the things they told me was, ‘Coach, you know how he runs. What about protecting us?’ He’s not going to change his running style. We all know that, but we have to be smart when he’s out there and they know that and will be conscious when he’s in the huddle.”
Peterson is hoping that if he throws enough shoulders into the defenders it might spur them to reciprocate with contact, something he seems anxious to absorb.
“I’m going to lower my shoulders. Those guys are probably going to get tired of touching off and tired of me putting my shoulders into them, so they’ll start firing back and that’s pretty much what I want them to do,” Peterson said after his first full-pads practice since December.
He was taken off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Sunday and began doing individual drills, but the rules of the collective bargaining agreement prohibited him from practicing in full pads immediately upon his return. The coaching staff is looking at his return to the field as a deliberate progression.
“We want to get him ready, but we want to be smart. We realize it’s a process,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “It’s not just an immediate recovery and he’s good to go like the Adrian of old.”
That might not sit well with the ultra-competitive Peterson, who said he didn’t really like Frazier telling the defenders to avoid contact with him and then said 10 snaps wasn’t enough for him in his first day back.
He said he was “shot down” when he asked the coaching staff for more snaps.
“Hopefully tomorrow we bump it up a little bit and see how things go,” he said.
Musgrave said there is no chance Peterson will play in the Vikings’ second preseason game Friday, but the third or fourth preseason games remain logical options for Peterson’s first game action since tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee on Dec. 24.
“We’re just in the baby steps of what has to be done with what he’s doing on the field, so we’ve just got to tread lightly early on,” Frazier said.
Peterson’s goal all along has been to be in the starting lineup when the Vikings host the Jacksonville Jaguars for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9. While that target date appears likely, the depth of his role in the opener, if the Vikings see everything they want from him over the next three weeks, is yet to be determined. Can he return immediately to being the workhorse back he was before the injury?
“There’s nothing to say that he could, but I don’t know if there were many things that would say at 7½ months he’d be prepared to do what he’s doing now,” Frazier said. “You don’t want to really put parameters on his rehabilitation. You want to just let it go and see where it takes us.”
Frazier said Peterson is “so far ahead of everyone else that our trainers are aware of” in rehabbing a torn ACL that there aren’t any hard and fast rules on the timeline for his full return.
For Peterson, the crosshairs are on Sept. 9.
“Here in a couple of weeks … that vision will be right here in my lap, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Everson Griffen, who is returning to the defensive line after an experiment as a linebacker, is just experiencing “soreness in his knee” after Monday afternoon’s practice. The Vikings expect him to be limited for a day or two. His availability for Friday will likely be determined Wednesday.
Frazier said Matt Kalil’s thumb injury suffered in Monday’s practice is “fine,” according to Frazier. Kalil was given an MRI, returned to practice Monday afternoon and was available again for the Tuesday morning walkthrough.
Defensive back Robert Blanton (hamstring) is expected to play Friday and to participate in the Tuesday afternoon practice.
Musgrave joked that the fire he lit under his offense early last week after a stagnant practice was “probably too big for the fire code, but luckily we go to put (the flames) out quickly.”
Musgrave said rookies Jarius Wright and Rhett Ellison both performed well in the time they got with the first-team offense Friday night and will continue to get reps there.
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