MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s past month has been filled with intense training sessions, legal issues and a surprise trip to the hospital.
Through it all, Peterson has continued to grind through his rehabilitation from knee surgery and is hoping he can finally focus on being with his teammates and eventually practicing with them, as well.
Peterson missed practice Monday to travel back to Houston, where he keeps his offseason home, for a court hearing regarding his incident with police last month.
But Peterson was back in camp Tuesday, returning to his individual training sessions in an effort to come back from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments.
Then, Wednesday, he said he shouldn’t need to return to Houston again despite hearings set for Sept. 27 and Nov. 15.
“I feel like we’re in a good position right now,” Peterson said. “The most important thing is no more interruptions. So it won’t interfere with what’s going on with the Minnesota Vikings and my team, so we’ll just see how things play out.”
Peterson has been itching to get back with his team, but the timeline for his return is still in doubt. He continues to work with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on the side fields at Minnesota State University and has increased football-type activities, but he’s waiting for his chance to get back into team drills.
Peterson, who was injured in a Dec. 24 game at Washington, still hopes to return in time to take part in the Vikings’ Sept. 9 regular-season opener. But Peterson, who is on the physically unable to perform list, is waiting to hear from Sugarman and coach Leslie Frazier about when he can practice fully.
“We’re going to talk (Wednesday night) a little bit, and I’m looking forward to being out here pretty soon,” Peterson said. “I’ve been out for like two weeks, and it’s time to get going. I know that they understand that, and they’ve been watching and they’ve been getting good feedback. So I’m sure they are pretty much as excited as I am.”
Frazier mentioned again Wednesday that he’d like to see Peterson play in at least one preseason game before activating him for the season opener.
“If we determine that it’s not a realistic goal — based on what we see once we finally take the reins off him and let him begin to practice — if we see that that’s not going to be possible, then you have to wait until the season and let that be his first exposure,” Frazier said. “But ideally you wouldn’t want that to be his first exposure to live contact, live situations. You’d like that to happen here.”
The hard-working Peterson has been in an intense rehab program designed to get him back to the field without missing a game. He’s pushed his way through most benchmarks and says he is ready to go and feels “normal.”
While the Vikings are trying to ease Peterson into action for his own good, Frazier doesn’t believe there has been any setback that wouldn’t allow for Peterson to be ready for the first regular-season game.
“There are no indications at this point that he wouldn’t be,” Frazier said. “Everything he’s done, he’s right on point. Now, I say that without him ever participating in a drill with his teammates, but all the things he’s done on the side, he’s looked very, very good. But we still have some more steps to take.”
One of those steps is Peterson reacting to being hit again. The four-time Pro Bowler said he doesn’t plan on wearing a brace on the knee once he is activated and wants to be past the injury mentally. He said he could wear a sleeve on the knee but doesn’t want the constant reminder a brace would provide.
Earlier this summer, Sugarman said a bigger brace wouldn’t necessarily help Peterson avoid another injury. The sleeve will at least offer Peterson some support.
Now Peterson has to react to defenders hitting him low and must make adjustments to protect himself. He says he’s ready to take hits and wants to get the feeling again of being hit and taken to the ground by tacklers.
“It might sound strange, but just to get that feel,” Peterson said, adding later there is no way to replicate the feeling of getting hit in game situations. “I don’t think there’s a way you can do it. You got to get hit in order to get that full effect. Hopefully we come out here and get some live periods going on and I’m sure everything will be high, but it will at least be a little something.”