Adrian Peterson expects to play in 2016 only if Vikings are still in contention

Andy Clayton-King/AP

When Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury in September, his recovery timetable was estimated to be between four and six months. Peterson, being the physical specimen that he is, always pushes the envelope when returning from injury, so four months was more than reasonable.

He’s now three months removed, and his mindset hasn’t changed – he still expects to play in 2016. There’s just one condition: The Vikings have to be in playoff contention.

Peterson spoke to reporters on Wednesday about his rehab and said he’ll be the one to decide if he returns this season. If the Vikings aren’t playing meaningful games, he won’t play this season.

The All-Pro running back said it would be “pointless” to do so, and it very much would be. There’d be no reason for him to risk re-injuring his knee or playing too soon if the Vikings have nothing to compete for. Peterson believes his team will make the playoffs, and he remains focused on that.

“Obviously, if we lose two games, we’re out,” Peterson said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “So we’ll just play it by ear.”

The Vikings don’t have the easiest schedule coming up, but games against the Jaguars and Colts in the next two weeks are somewhat favorable. Should Minnesota win those, it would at least give Peterson a reason to get back on the field. If not, he’ll remain sidelined.

As it stands, a return on Dec. 24 would seem to be the likeliest date. That would be an all-important game against the Packers at Lambeau Field with Minnesota's playoff hopes riding on a win.