By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Even when the doctors told him back in late December that it would be at least nine months before he returned to football, Adrian Peterson didn’t believe it.
Less than eight months following reconstructive knee surgery, Peterson was back at practice with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, having been activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list.
“I’m great,” he told a pack of reporters. “Can’t you see the big smile on my face.”
Peterson tore two ligaments in his left knee Dec. 24 against Washington, then had surgery on Dec. 30. But Vikings coach Leslie Frazier cautioned that just because Peterson is practicing, his availability for the regular-season opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 9 remains uncertain.
“We have a long time to determine that,” Frazier said. “This is just another step in the process.”
Peterson was placed on the PUP list before the start of training camp, and for the past two weeks, he’s worked out on an adjacent field with trainers. He said the hardest part of the rehab was getting the strength and range of motion back in his knee.
“I’ve done all I can, doing training, working out, doing drills,” Peterson said. “It’s time to get back in the mix.”
Frazier said that Peterson had been bugging him since the start of camp to let him practice, but under the advice of the medical staff, Peterson was restricted.
“He could be a good politician,” Frazier said. “He did a good job of lobbying, but it wasn’t his lobbying that got us to this point. It was his hard work.”
Peterson participated in the Sunday morning walk-through, taking a few handoffs as he split time with Toby Gerhart on the first unit. By the afternoon practice, which also turned into an indoor walk-through because of rain and wet fields, Peterson was taking nearly all the No. 1 reps.
“I had to slow myself down,” he said. “I was going a little too fast for a walk-through.
“When I get out on the grass, with my cleats on, then it will feel like football.”
Under the new collective-bargaining agreement, Peterson can’t participate in any padded practices or contact drills for the next two days. Frazier said that even after Peterson is fully participating in practice, he won’t take much contact.
“The first time he’ll go to the ground, if I have anything to say, will be in a game situation,” Frazier said.
Peterson, who watched his team lose to San Francisco in the preseason opener last Friday, won’t likely see any action in Friday’s preseason game against Buffalo, but Frazier
didn’t rule out playing in the final two preseason games.
“We’ll gauge him daily,” Frazier said. “If we could get him in a game and let him get a little bit of the taste of NFL action, that would be good, but we’ll see.”
Peterson said it was satisfying to get back on the field, even in a limited role, and if he doesn’t get any preseason snaps, he’ll be ready for Sept. 9.
“It’s been a true test,” he said. “When I reflect back on the day after surgery to get where I am today, it’s been a lot of hard work.”