Frazier to defense: Be careful with Peterson
MANKATO, Minn. — Adrian Peterson was in the Minnesota Vikings' huddle Tuesday when he saw coach Leslie Frazier walk over to the defensive huddle.
Peterson was getting ready for his first carry since tearing two ligaments in his knee late last season. But when Frazier talked to the defense, Peterson knew he would have to wait a while to take his first hit since returning.
Two days after being activated off the physically unable to perform list, Peterson was able to don his pads for the first time since the Dec. 24 game at Washington in which he suffered a torn ACL and MCL.
Frazier had told his defensive players a few times to be cautious with the star running back.
"Initially, I kind of expected to get hit, or bumped or something," Peterson said following practice. "Then I see coach Frazier run over to the defensive side of the ball and that kind of opened my eyes up. I said, 'Hey, these guys are definitely not going to put their hands on me. I didn't really like that too much.' "
Frazier met with the defense and said to take things easy on Peterson as he returns to padded practices. After activating Peterson on Sunday, Frazier said Peterson wouldn't be tackled during training camp, "if I have anything to say about it." The coach continued preaching caution on Tuesday.
"I talked to them about it and now they have to adhere to it," Frazier said of his chat with the defense. "One of the things they told me was, 'Coach, you know how he runs. What about protecting us?'
"He's not going to change his running style. We all know that. But we have to be smart when he's out there and know that we need to be conscious of when he's in the huddle."
Peterson has pushed through an intensive rehabilitation to be ready for action less than eight months after surgery.
He ended up taking about 10 plays in Tuesday afternoon's practice. He tried to lobby for more work, but after months of waiting, the Vikings are going to take it easy with their star running back. After weeks of saying he feels good and saying he is "normal," practicing with pads helped Peterson feel complete.
"Just going through the motion with the guys, sitting over there just talking, going through the plays and being involved," Peterson said of the best part of being back. "I actually feel a part, you know? I actually feel like a part today."
Frazier hasn't said when Peterson will return to game action or if the four-time Pro Bowl selection will meet his goal of playing in the first regular-season game on Sept. 9. But Frazier said he's been told Peterson has accomplished everything he can on his own, working out on the side fields and in the weight room with the trainers and strength coach.
The next step for Peterson was to rejoin his teammates on the field. The coaches planned to get Peterson into limited action on Tuesday, working him into various drills to see how he responds to defenders coming at him. They plan to slowly increase his workload from there.
"Just to get him back into the football mode, so to speak," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He has to go through the mental gymnastics as well as the physical part."
Musgrave had specific points he wanted to address with Peterson, later adding: "I think to see if his normal reactions take place when a defender flashes or when he needs to make a cut. Maybe when a play doesn't quite come off as the way we chalked it up on the chalkboard. Can he handle it physically as well as mentally?
"He's had a long layoff, that's an understatement. We're looking for the normal Adrian to emerge over time. Not today; we know it's a process and that today is just another step in that."
While the defense has been told to stay hands-off, the aggressive Peterson doesn't want to hold back. The defensive players' worries when they talked to Frazier were only confirmed when Peterson spoke.
"Oh, I'm going to lower my shoulders," Peterson said. "Those other guys are probably going to get tired of touching off and get tired of me putting my shoulders into them. So, they'll probably start firing back, and that's pretty much what I want them to do."
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