As the Vikings continue to put their roster together, one area that wasn't addressed in the draft is where they may have their biggest question mark – running back.
When Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury against the Redskins late last season, the severity of the injury and the logistics of the situation were readily apparent. The recovery time for an injury of that type is eight to 12 months – and that is for a standard NFL player, not a running back asked to make sharp cuts and have a second gear in the open field. The reality of knee injuries like the one Peterson suffered is that a player isn't truly back to 100 percent until he is almost two years removed from surgery.
Peterson is attacking his rehab with a gusto that would be expected from someone with his work ethic. He is sticking to the timeline and is still shooting to be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against Jacksonville. If anyone can make a full recovery in less than the anticipated time, it would be Peterson. But, by his own admission, while he's shooting for a Week 1 return, the likelihood of him starting training camp on the same practice field with his teammates is "50/50."
The Vikings are hopeful that he will be ready for the regular season, although they aren't committing to any bold predictions. At one point in the draft, the Vikings were the owners of 13 draft picks. They didn't use any of them on running backs. They have also had almost three months of free agency to address the position by signing a player as A.P. insurance in the event he doesn't return by September. To date, they have yet to do so, singing only 248-pound fullback Jerome Felton and 235-pound tailback-fullback 'tweener Lex Hilliard.
Toby Gerhart, who was rehabbing an injury of his own and says he is now 100 percent, is currently in line to be the primary running back in the offense should Peterson not be ready for the start of the season. Gerhart proved last season that he can handle the workload as a featured back, so the Vikings are confident in his ability to be a less-explosive version of A.P. in the Vikings backfield.
When the Vikings held a public Peterson workout, it was clear that A.P. is making progress in his return to the field, but running in a straight line, showing off an impressive vertical jump and putting mild pressure on the knee in change-of-direction drills don't equate to taking a handoff, planting a foot in the ground and making a cut in an NFL game.
Will Peterson be ready for the start of the regular season? Hard to know for sure, but he is determined to make it happen. However, will he be the Peterson that Vikings fans have become accustomed to seeing over the last five years? That's the $100 million question. Don't be surprised to see Peterson worked back into the lineup slowly. He likely won't take a snap during the team's four preseason games and will have to shake off some game rust once wins and losses count against the team's record.
It may be a tall order to ask Peterson to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2012 season, but everyone is saying the right things. Peterson is aiming for the Sept. 9 opener. Head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman is pointing to a return at the start of the regular season. And, perhaps most importantly, the Vikings haven't made any moves at running back in the event Peterson won't be ready for the start of the season. That inactivity may speak the loudest as to whether the Vikings believe Peterson will be good to go when the season begins.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Peterson says '50-50;' Vikings seem confident
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