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Updated: February 25th, 2012 2:31pm
Notebook: Don't expect Adrian Peterson to carry load upon return

Notebook: Don't expect Adrian Peterson to carry load upon return

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has made clear Adrian Peterson won't be running next week.

Even if all goes well with his rehabilitation from knee reconstruction, Peterson probably won't be running as much as usual come September either.

The Vikings and their star halfback have said repeatedly they are targeting a Week 1 return. But Frazier didn't hesitate when asked at the NFL scouting combine whether 15 to 20 snaps a game would be a logical workload at the outset of the 2012 season.

"You're exactly right," Frazier said. "If we could get 15, 20 out of Adrian in the first ballgame -- boy, we'd be so, so happy with that and making sure that Toby (Gerhart)'s still got his touches as well. That would be the ideal scenario in letting him grow as the season goes on, and we'll see what happens. That would be fantastic if we were able to do that in the first game of the season."

Peterson averaged 48.8 snaps in the nine games he played last season before suffering a high ankle sprain on Nov. 20 against Oakland. He missed three weeks, returned on a limited snap count Dec. 18 against New Orleans and then tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee six days later at Washington.

In 10 games before another ankle injury in 2010, Peterson averaged 51.1 snaps -- workhorse-type action in a league that increasingly is seeing teams employ two-back systems. Over those same 19 games when Peterson was healthy, top backup Toby Gerhart averaged only 10.1 snaps and carried the ball 41 times total.

That Gerhart performed well down the stretch last season will be one factor in the Vikings' approach once Peterson is ready to return. They want a return on both investments -- the second- and third-round draft picks it took to get Gerhart in 2010 and the $36 million in guarantees Peterson received on his contract extension in September.

Peterson's intention to begin running two months ahead of schedule before team officials stopped him is evidence of his competitive nature, which may have him thinking he's ready for 50 snaps a game the moment he's medically cleared, too.

"You like Adrian's enthusiasm," Frazier said. "You like the fact that he wants to get back as soon as possible. But there is a protocol to follow with this injury, and he's going to do that. He's going to adhere to the doctors' wishes, and he's going come back, I believe, and be as good or better than he ever was before."

Quiet time

There has been less buzz than usual about deals at the combine -- a likely product of the delayed start to free agency.

In the past, the combine has ended on a Tuesday and free agency launched three days later. This year, free agency won't launch until March 13, which also is the deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to their own restricted free agents.

General manager Rick Spielman said earlier this week the Vikings won't finalize their plans for free agency and their own roster until the end of next week. Eighteen players who finished last season on the 53-man roster or injured reserve are unsigned for 2012.

Unrestricted free agents include: E.J. Henderson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jimmy Kleinsasser (retired), Husain Abdullah, Sage Rosenfels, Erin Henderson, Fred Avans, Greg Camarillo, Scott Kooistra, Benny Sapp, Tyrell Johnson, Devin Aromashodu, Matt Katula, Jarrad Page, Xavier Adibi and Letroy Guion. The only restricted free agents are Lorenzo Booker and Kenny Onatolu.

No regrets

Spielman said he has no regrets about the contract extension the Vikings gave to strongside linebacker Chad Greenway, who received an $8.5 million signing bonus as part of the five-year, $40.6 million deal.

Greenway, 29, led the Vikings with 174 tackles (104 solo) and was named to his first Pro Bowl as an alternate. But he didn't have a single interception or forced fumble and admitted he played better in 2010.

"We just didn't play very good overall defensively last year," Spielman said. "But I know Chad -- a thousand times you're going to invest that money in a player like Chad Greenway. And he ended up going to Pro Bowl this year.

"I know it was as an alternate, but he was recognized because he still led our team in tackles and he still was very productive. Didn't make some of the splash plays, but Chad Greenway is a player that's a foundation of our defense that we need to build around as well."

No switch

Mel Tucker confirmed he seriously considered an offer to become the Vikings' defensive coordinator before opting to return in the same position with Jacksonville.

Tucker said he would have stuck with a 4-3 defense in Minnesota and denied Frazier's status -- entering the second year of a three-year contract after a 3-13 season -- was a primary factor in his decision.

The Jaguars' new direction under owner Shahid Khan and coach Mike Mularkey, coupled with a desire to avoid moving his family, made Tucker more comfortably staying in Jacksonville.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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