EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson said he experienced some tightness in his surgically repaired knee after his first game in more than eight months, but he was feeling better Thursday and ready for a bigger workload this week.
Peterson, who said the knee felt really loose after the game, said he dealt with some soreness on Tuesday, but after treatment he believes he’ll be ready for Sunday’s game when Minnesota travels to Indianapolis to face the Colts.
The Vikings want to remain cautious with Peterson and not make him the workhorse back right away, but he surprised many with his 17-carry, 84-yard, two-touchdown game Sunday, when his playing status wasn’t decided until shortly before the game. He took 32 snaps, 54 percent of the team’s plays. Backup Toby Gerhart played 20 snaps and had six carries for 18 yards.
“This is my first time really getting out there and cutting with that intensity of being out there in the game, so it was something different for me,” Peterson said. “I can say it was probably the most soreness I’ve experienced through the process of working out and stuff like that, but I’ve been able to bounce back, icing it, just doing the things that I need to do to stay on top of it.”
Peterson called it mild soreness which lingered for two days, but said he didn’t have any swelling in the knee. During his rehab, he experienced some tightness in his knee but said it was alleviated with stretching.
He was a full participant in practice Wednesday and looks as if he’s ready to earn an increased role Sunday. Coach Leslie Frazier isn’t ready to thrust Peterson into every-down status and wouldn’t commit to how much he would use Peterson on Sunday. But the coach, who has been careful with his franchise running back all along the way, was encouraged by Sunday’s performance.
“I think he’s pretty close,” Frazier said when asked how close Peterson is to his pre-injury form. “But we’ve got so much football to be played, and he needs to get a little more work under his belt to really gauge that. But, man, where he is right now coming off of surgery, I don’t think there’s any team that would turn down having him as their running back, their feature back. He might not be quite where he was prior to the injury, but he’s pretty, pretty close.”
Peterson has said he’s about 95 percent finished with his recovery from knee surgery Dec. 30 to repair two torn ligaments, and he believes the only thing left is for him to regain a little bit more of the explosiveness that has made him one of the top running backs in the league since his rookie year in 2007.
“Just being more explosive with my strength,” Peterson said of the final step. “It don’t sound like much from the outside looking in. But I know my game, and I know where I want to be. And it’s going to be huge once I get 100 percent. Like night and day. Seriously. I’m just keeping that in mind. I’m excited just to continue to strengthen this leg and do what I need to do to get there and push to be 100 percent. So I really can go out and perform the way I want to.”
On Sunday, Peterson’s longest two carries showed how far he’s come in his return but his outing also showed that a bit of the “old” Peterson is still missing.
He ripped off a 19-yard gain in the third quarter but was brought down by a defensive back who had an angle on him. In overtime, he slipped through a small hole and burst through for his longest run, a 20-yarder that he felt he was close to taking the distance.
“It was close, yeah,” Peterson said. “It was real close. Got the horse collar, but I almost split those guys.”
Peterson never doubted he would play Sunday, but Frazier said he wasn’t fully convinced until after watching Peterson get through last week’s practices. Peterson is relieved to get the drama of his return out of the way and is happy to have the first game with his rebuilt knee over.
“I guess I had in my mind that I was going to be able to play,” Peterson said. “I think everybody else around was kind of still in suspense, didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but I can say that it fills good to get the first game under our belt, even better to have a win. Just to start this new process. Like I say, it was a different experience for me for my legs, for my body. My body actually held up pretty good. My body felt good but just for my knee, to see how it was going to feel, you know, after a game and getting hit on it and everything. I have been handling it pretty well. I haven’t been down, just been trying to do the necessary things that I need to do to help my body rejuvenate.”
A rejuvenated Peterson will see the Colts on Sunday, with no more questions about whether he is ready for game time.