Adrian Peterson was one of three veterans missing from the opening day of Vikings training camp, but it appeared to be the most irritating absence for head coach Brad Childress.
Pretty much no one expected veteran quarterback Brett Favre to be at minicamp after having surgery last month to clean up his ankle, which was injured in the NFC Championship Game. Defensive end Ray Edwards is missing because he isn’t signing his free-agent tender until after the camp, with Childress calling that a “business” move.
But the fact that Peterson is missing the entire minicamp to attend Adrian Peterson Day in his hometown of Palestine, Texas, on Saturday didn’t seem to sit well with Childress.
“I just know that there’s a bunch of guys here. This has the term mandatory for a reason. The work’s here,” Childress said. “You can say whatever you want. This is the fourth annual Adrian Peterson Day. I don’t know if it’s going to be like every year they’re going to have that, but we’re going to have this too.
“We promulgated that (offseason) schedule at a very early (date) … the work’s here.”
Peterson was at Winter Park earlier this week meeting with his running backs coach, Eric Bieniemy, and going through drills, which included carry at 14-pound, sand-filled football as part of the team’s efforts to limit his fumbling.
Peterson led all non-quarterbacks with seven fumbles – six lost – last year, and that total didn’t include two that he was credited with in the NFC Championship Game and another one that could have been credited to him.
“It’s part of that comprehensive offseason study. … It’s akin to putting a weight on a bat and swinging it before you go to the plate,” Childress said.
Asked if the Vikings were going to work with the way that Peterson carries the ball, Childress said, “When he’s here.”
Childress said the team hasn’t decided whether Peterson’s absence will be excused or not, which will determine if he can be fined by the team for missing a mandatory practice.
The Vikings opened minicamp with a Friday afternoon practice, have two more on Saturday and another on Sunday morning, but Childress doesn’t anticipate Peterson showing up on Sunday after the event in Texas.
“I don’t think so. My understanding is that he probably won’t be here for anything,” he said.
That contradicts what rookie running back Toby Gerhart is doing. After completing his finals at Stanford, Gerhart hopped on a red-eye flight to Minnesota late Tuesday and started catching up on the organized team activities he couldn’t attend because of an NFL rule prohibiting rookies with a late school schedule, like Stanford, from attending voluntary workouts. Gerhart has been in meetings try to make up for the time he missed and will be in Minnesota for three of the first practices before leaving for the Sunday ceremony at Stanford. He will return after that to spend another week at Winter Park with the rookies.
Childress didn’t find out about Peterson’s plans until someone showed him a story about Adrian Peterson on a website earlier this week.
“I had an inkling, let's put it that way,” he said when asked if Peterson’s absence was a complete surprise. “I didn't know if he was going to come out here and practice this afternoon or catch a late flight. I didn't know how that was going to work.”
Asked if it was a scheduling snafu, Childress said, “Not from my standpoint. We're going to be here working with the people that are here.”
Childress said the circumstances with Favre and Edwards were different than Peterson’s decision.
“That's a special circumstance. I don't think Adrian's batting around retirement in his mind, I don't believe,” Childress said, referring to Favre. “It's a special set of circumstances. You can say, 'Well, is it special? Is everything equal?' Obviously it's not. That's just the way it is. That's matter of fact. I think everybody understands that part of the equation.”
When it comes Edwards, he isn’t allowed to take part in practices until he signs his tender, and he is waiting to sign it because he isn’t happy that he was a restricted free agent this offseason because of the lack of a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement. In previous years, free agents with four or more years of experience and an expiring contract would have been unrestricted, but Edwards was one of more than 200 free agents caught in the middle of the labor unrest.
“I know Ray wanted to be over here. I know he understand that this is a business,” Childress said. “We’ve communicated back and forth. Nobody likes to practice more or play more than Ray Edwards. Just the nature of the business.”
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was making his first practice appearance of the offseason, said he wasn’t bothered by the absence of Peterson and Favre.
“Not at all. Those guys are very dependable. Brett's been in the league a long time, Adrian a few years,” Winfield said. “We know what he brings to the table. We know he's a hard worker. We're not worried about that.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.