Peterson to arrive this afternoon

The waiting is over. All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson – the inspirational team leader and heart of the San Francisco defense – will report to the 49ers this afternoon, and coach Dennis Erickson will put him right to work. "He'll be able to come out and do some things tomorrow and then I'll probably start him Friday and play (him) the whole game," Erickson said late Wednesday morning. Erickson was joking, of course, but it won't be long before Peterson is back doing the things only he can do.

Erickson said Peterson will come in and sign the one-year, $6.073 million offer tendered to him by the team, ending a holdout that has kept the fifth-year veteran out for the first 28 days of training-camp sessions.

"Julian, basically, wants to get in here and play football," Erickson said. "Julian has strong feelings about this team, his teammates and the organization, so this is perfect timing because it gives him time (to prepare for the season). I knew he was going to be here, but it's a relief he's coming in now. It's a real plus for both Julian and the football team."

Peterson, designated by the team in Feburary as its exclusive franchise player, has not participated in any team functions so far this year, missing all of the team's spring minicamps in addition to summer sessions as his agents and Niners management became entrenched in a contract stalemate.

The versatile Peterson, considered by some as the NFL's best outside linebacker, was offered a six-year, $37.8 million contract by the 49ers that general manager Terry Donahue said would make Peterson the highest-paid player in team history.

That offer included a $15.5 million signing bonus, but Peterson's agents, Kevin and Carl Poston, were looking for a more lucrative deal that would include substantially more guaranteed money. Donahue said Tuesday that the team would open new negotiations on a long-term deal for Peterson once he signs his one-year tender and gets into camp.

The tender is the average salary of the NFL's five highest-paid players at Peterson's position, which is what the Niners are required to offer Peterson as an exclusive franchise player under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.

Erickson said he's not worried that Peterson will come to the team disgruntled about not getting a new contract.

"Knowing Julian, he's just going to come in and put that behind him and play football," Erickson said. "We feel the same way. We just want to get on and get going."

Erickson said Peterson will travel with the 49ers on Thursday to Minnesota, where the Niners play their third preseason game on Friday against the Vikings. Peterson will resume practicing with the team on Sunday, and he could play in the final exhibition game next Thursday against the San Diego Chargers.

More importantly, he'll be ready for the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against Atlanta.

"The longer he's here, the more things that we can do defensively and the more impact he can have in that first game against Atlanta," Erickson said. "The bottom line of all this is to get ready for September 12. I think he has a chance to catch up on a lot of things. He can get a lot of it in. I'm relieved he comes in this afternoon. It's really important that he does."


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