EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson sped back from major knee surgery as quick as anyone ever has, so it’s no surprise to hear he’s almost fully back after having sports hernia surgery following last season.
Speaking on NFL AM on NFL Network Wednesday morning, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson has been slowed in his offseason workouts because of surgery, but he’s close to being back as the team ramps up its organized team activities in two weeks.
“He had the abdominal strain late in the season and that has kind of slowed him this offseason as far as being able to kick things into overdrive and doing things the way he wants to do it,” Frazier said. “It has slowed him down a little bit, but he just about back to 100 percent doing everything he needs to be able to do to be in the best possible shape for this season.”
Frazier spoke on a wide variety of topics including the team’s big draft that netted three first-round picks, as well as the rumor this week that the Minnesota is interested in former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Urlacher is “leaning” on joining the Vikings and also has interest from the Denver Broncos.
But Minnesota has denied interest in Urlacher at this time and Denver reporters reported Tuesday that the team hadn’t even reached out to Urlacher’s agent.
The Vikings seem content, for now, in filling its open starting middle linebacker spot from within. Last year’s starter, Jasper Brinkley, signed with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent. Erin Henderson has said he’s open to a move to the middle from his weakside linebacker spot and the team drafted Penn State outside linebacker Gerald Hodges in the fourth-round of the draft in April.
Frazier had stated previously that Audie Cole, Marvin Mitchell and Tyrone McKenzie are also in the mix at linebacker, with Henderson versatility giving Minnesota the option of playing the best three players.
“Brian has been a great player in our league for a long, long time,” Frazier said on NFL AM. “He has been a thorn in our side for many years. At this point, we want to take a look at the guys on our roster, give them a chance to compete for the middle linebacker position and then we will see where it takes us.”
It’s been another busy offseason for the Vikings, who traded away leading receiver Percy Harvin and then added former Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings in free agency and drafted Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round.
Peterson, in his return from knee surgery, was the league’s MVP last season after rushing for 2,097 yards, the second-highest, single-season total in NFL history.
“We would like to be more balanced,” Frazier said. “We obviously pride ourselves on being able to run the football and being able to stop the run on defense. But we think in order to take that next step, as a team and as an offense, we need to be able to create that balance by being able to pass the ball a little bit better. We think with the acquisition of Greg, along with what we did in the draft, and some of the other guys coming back – a healthy Jerome Simpson, our tight end Kyle Rudolph – we think we are going to be a better team throwing the football, which should, hopefully, open up more holes for Adrian Peterson.”
Improvement from the Vikings’ offense will need to come from more growth from quarterback Christian Ponder too.
“This will be his third season, his second season as a full time starter,” Frazier said. “We are expecting him to take another step forward. We saw glimpses in the month in December, when we went 4-0, of what he can be. We are really excited about some of the things we saw down the stretch of the season and we are looking for him to carry that over to our next season.”
Frazier also said the team’s three first-round picks — Patterson, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes — will have a chance to start, but none will be handed a starting assignment.
“There is enough competition on our team where they don’t have to come in and start right away,” Frazier said. “But if that were to happen, it would be a good thing for our team. Each one will have a chance to start.”