|Adrian Peterson is coming off a torn ACL, and the club wants to be careful. (US Presswire)|
The plan, simply, is more practice.
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Coach Leslie Frazier said Tuesday his change of mind about handing the ball to his recovering star running back in a preseason game.
Frazier originally said he wanted Peterson to experience the full contact of such a setting before the real season begins, but he has backed off.
Peterson actually agreed this time.
"My goals are still the game," Peterson said. "I look forward to being back the first week" of the regular season.
That Peterson, a fierce, relentless competitor who has lobbied for more playing time seemingly since the day he was drafted, was satisfied with the decision was as sure a sign as any the Vikings (29th in the AP Pro32 rankings) are making a wise move.
"There are no setbacks. That's not the reason we're doing it," Frazier said. "We just feel like more time with him in practice with some of the things that we're doing and the progression of getting him ready for the season, it's the right thing to do."
The opener is Sept. 9 against Jacksonville, and Frazier again declined to guarantee that Peterson will be cleared to play that afternoon.
But there is little benefit to the team to assure that at this point, unless the goal was to assuage the anxieties of fantasy football league owners.
Frazier instead sounded intent on tempering expectations and reiterating the importance of caution, even if the 27-year-old's participation against the Jaguars has carried almost an air of inevitability throughout his rehabilitation work this summer.
"Everything has gone better than can be expected up to this point. But this is a decision we made. We talked with him about it. And for the first time in our conversations, he kind of seemed like he understood," Frazier said. "He even used the word `patience.' And I was like, `Wow. Finally. It's clicking.' He's on board."
Frazier also said Peterson's father, Nelson, has encouraged him to listen to the coaches and trainers as the end of the recovery comes closer. And Peterson himself has been perhaps his best adviser.
"I've been preaching to myself. I've been repeating it and trying to brainwash myself, teaching patience, patience, patience," Peterson said. "Because the last couple weeks I really haven't been hearing the things I wanted to hear, so I have to be patient. Patient. But I'm understanding it, man, and we're on the same page."
Peterson had surgery Dec. 30 to fix tears in his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament.
"He's been so far ahead in his rehab all along," Frazier said. "Even the things he's doing in practice, there's nothing that makes you feel like you have to pull back just from watching him move around. But the more things we can give to him in the time we have leading up to the season opener, the better."
Though the defense is still prohibited from touching him, Peterson ran the ball 18 times in the full team portion of Monday's practice.
Frazier said he experienced no problems or side effects. Soon, before Sept. 9, the no-contact ban will be lifted to gauge Peterson's ability to cut and properly maneuver around the tacklers, essentially the final evaluation of a running back's ACL recovery.
"When some of the guys put a pad on him, how does he handle that? And when bodies fall down in front of him, how does he handle that? Does he stop and plant as the Adrian of old, or does he just come to a standstill where he's liable to taking a really serious hit?" Frazier said.
The best way to do that is in the controlled environment on the practice field, rather than exposing him to the risk of a freak hit in a preseason game, perhaps from some linebacker trying to make the team racing in at the last second.
"The more things we can give to him in the time that we have leading up to the season opener, the better we'll have as far as tape is concerned to be able to evaluate what's the best thing to do - whether to let him go in that first game or to hold him back a little bit longer," Frazier said.
The sooner they let him go -- and let the defense come at him -- the better for Peterson.
"I'm just excited to see how I feel when I get hit or to run over somebody. ... I'm a physical running back so I want to get that contact," he said.