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Updated: May 9th, 2012 3:56pm
Adrian Peterson remains confident he will return for Vikings' opener

Adrian Peterson remains confident he will return for Vikings' opener

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Considering the investment the Minnesota Vikings have made in Adrian Peterson, the team isn't about to place a timetable on when its star running back will return after tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last Christmas Eve in a game at Washington.

But the ultra-competitive Peterson certainly has some thoughts on the subject.

After going through a brief workout in front of the media on Wednesday in the Vikings' indoor practice facility at Winter Park, Peterson continued to express confidence that he will play in the Vikings' regular-season opener on Sept. 9 against Jacksonville at the Metrodome.

"I will be surprised (if I don't play in the first game)," Peterson said. "I will be very surprised. I've been ahead of the schedule since day one. The staff here, the staff down in Houston, they've been doing a great job with just pushing me, pushing me. But having that limit on it and knowing that, 'Hey, Adrian, I know you want to do this, but you've just got to play it slow and it will come.'

"From square one, I've been ahead of the curve. Me personally, because that's my goal (to return for the opener), I set my expectations high and my goals high. That first game against Jacksonville I plan on being back so that will be disappointing if I'm not."

The typical recovery period for an ACL injury is six to eight months.

Peterson was injured in the third quarter of the Vikings' 33-26 victory over the Redskins on Dec. 24 when Washington safety DeJon Gomes put his helmet into Peterson's knee on a run up the middle.

Peterson had the surgery on Dec. 30. That came after he signed a seven-year, $96 million contract that included $36 million guaranteed last September just before the Vikings opened the season at San Diego.

Asked if he was listening to those who cautioned him about the dangers of rushing back from the injury, Peterson said: "I'm set on what my mindset is. People can say what they want to say. I've got my goals. My whole life I've been setting my goals and pushing forward and I've been successful with doing that.

"I've been smart, don't get me wrong, I've been smart about the process. Four months out, I'm at the point where I'm able to start cutting and doing some of the things that I'm used to doing. Right now, I feel like it's more important for me to get my strength. I feel like the conditioning will come once I'm able just to let loose."

Eric Sugarman, the Vikings' head athletic trainer, said there is no timetable for when Peterson will return to football activities.

"You basically just judge it on the guy's function," Sugarman said. "You know he's to the point now where he's really safe to do just about anything. We gradually ramp him up to functional activity and when we get to the point where he's comfortable and has normal strength back to the other side - or better than the other side - and can function as he needs to then we make that decision."

Sugarman also expressed confidence that Peterson knows he has to be wise about his recovery and can't rush things.

"He realizes now that there's too much to lose by doing something foolish," Sugarman said. "He's been pretty good. Now you have to pull back on the reins every once in a while and just remind him. But he's been pretty good about it, and I'm on the record as saying that he'll continue."

The issue is that once Peterson is allowed to play in games, he isn't going to want to be used in a limited role. However, the Vikings likely will want Peterson to start out by splitting carries with Toby Gerhart.

"I'm not going to see myself in a limited role," Peterson said. "I want to be out there full throttle. When the time comes, it will play the cards how they're laid. I feel like I'll be able to go out there and help my team. That's where my mindset is going to be at."

Peterson, 27, has been doing rehab both at Winter Park and at his home in Houston throughout this process.

Sugarman said he is putting Peterson through about two hours of rehab per day, including on-and-off the field work.

Peterson's workout in front of the media Wednesday included a drill where Sugarman rolled a soccer ball to the running back to work on his horizontal movement. Peterson also ran around a large hoop laid on the field to work on his cutting, did two sets of sideline-to-sideline sprints and then jumped about 3 feet onto a box nine times.

Peterson, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his first four season before being held to 970 yards in 12 games last season, wore a brace on his left knee for a portion of the workout but not when he was running straight ahead.

"I would say the cutting," is the biggest challenge, Peterson said. "I would say that's the biggest challenge right now. I feel like I am cutting pretty good and planting. Not to where I want to be but it's pretty good. But the bigger challenge is accelerating and decelerating."

As for the brace, Sugarman would like Peterson to wear it in games when he does return but knows it's a long shot that will happen. "I'd love it if he did but you know there's no way," Sugarman said. "These guys usually throw the brace at me at some point because they just hate it."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Toby Gerhart, Adrian Peterson
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