EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Back at practice Monday for the start of the first week of the regular season, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was making no assurances on the availability of star running back Adrian Peterson.
Frazier said he wants to see how Peterson does in practice this week and said the team will wait to make the decision whether to activate Peterson right up until Sunday.
“Without question, we’re going to give our team and give him every chance possible before we make that decision,” Frazier said Monday.
Peterson’s goal ever since surgery Dec. 31 to repair two torn knee ligaments has been playing in the first game of the regular season. Despite returning to practice Aug. 12 and taking contact last week for the first time since surgery, Peterson’s availability, and workload, are in doubt for Sunday’s regular-season opener at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Vikings ruled out Peterson for any work in the preseason. Ever since activating Peterson from the physically unable to perform list for his first practice three weeks ago, Frazier has preached patience and following a process for Peterson’s return.
But the hard-working back has had Sept. 9 as his goal all along. Frazier said he would have worried in the past about Peterson’s desire to get back on the field, but the coach believes Peterson is on board with the team’s plan now. Regardless, the decision won’t be Peterson’s.
Frazier too is excited about getting Peterson back, but the final decision will come from the coach and trainers to determine when Peterson is ready.
“You really have to take the emotion out of it,” Frazier said. “You really need to hone in on what’s best for him, what’s best for our team. Adrian is not just another guy on our team. He is, in so many ways, the face of what we try to do. So, we have to be able to see the big picture when it comes to him. That’s the way we’ll approach it.”
Frazier isn’t worried about having to tweak the game plan against Jacksonville depending on Peterson’s availability because of Toby Gerhart’s success last season. But Frazier does need to see more out of Peterson.
“You’re trying to determine as we are putting the game plan in, how is he from a mental standpoint and picking that up and the things we want to get done?” Frazier said. “But also physically, when we get on the field some of the things we’re going to ask him to do, how he responds to some of the things we’re going to ask him to do. Catching the football, certain runs that we want him to make in practice, so we can kind of gauge if he’s ready to line up against an opponent. We won’t do any heavy contact, for obvious reasons, but we need to see him do some things physically within what we’re trying to get done against Jacksonville.”
A lot of what Frazier sees in practice this week will determine whether Peterson is activated for Sunday, and if so, how many carries he gets. Peterson won’t return to a full workload even when ready and will split carries with Gerhart, especially early in the season.
“We wouldn’t want to approach it, for sure if he makes it back, with the mindset that he has gone through an entire offseason with his teammates,” Frazier said. “We recognize, if he’s able to get in this first ballgame, it will be with limited exposure. So, we’ll talk about it as the week goes on and see how he’s doing and see if it’s even a viable option to let him play.”