Holler: Vikings likely know the A.P. verdict

The Vikings might not announce anything for months, but they probably know which direction they are moving when it comes to Adrian Peterson.

For now, the attention of Vikings fans and the fan bases of 19 other teams is going to be temporarily diverted. The playoffs are starting this weekend and the world’s attention will start building toward the Super Bowl. From the outside of Winter Park, that is a monstrous well-timed distraction.

The 2015 season for the Vikings started about 3:21 Central Standard Time Dec. 28. Should auld acquaintance be forgot? By all means.

Part of the brilliance of the NFL is that its regular season ends at the same time the holiday season is in full swing, providing a much-needed distraction for the fans of those teams who didn’t live up to expectations of being playoffs teams.

Don’t underestimate the value of holidays for the end of the NFL season to be the natural fireworks distraction the have-not teams are undergoing. It takes the minds of fans off the situation at hand and allows teams to go about their business without the prying eyes that have shadowed them since training camp opened in late July

This week, the Vikings players dispersed and went back to where they’re from. A lot of them didn’t go far. Just as many or more went hundreds if not thousands of miles away. School’s out and, by and large, the students are gone.

All that’s left is the faculty.

The last week has been a palate-cleanser for Vikings fans, but the Xcel bill at Winter Park is going to be significant. If the lights have gone off since last Sunday, it hasn’t been for long. Mike Zimmer could be sitting on a tractor and then sipping wine with his iPad on his lap, but his return is imminent for evaluations. There is plenty of work going on and a ton of postseason evaluation of who will stay and who will go from the 2014 roster.

In 2014, the Vikings learned the hard way how to get used to life without Adrian Peterson. Now they have to determine whether that is a permanent condition. Rest assured, after the first weeks of postseason evaluation, that decision will have been made.

The Vikings were hamstrung for almost the entire 2014 season because the new offense installed by Norv Turner was going to include a heavy dose of A.P. He was going to be the engine that ran the offense. When he went on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, the Vikings basically had to scrap Plan A and go to Plan B – which eventually became Plans C, D and E.

The organization has remained conspicuously silent on the future of Peterson in Minnesota. To the outside world, it appears as though the Vikings are riding the storm out, waiting to see what happens over the next few months. Inside Winter Park, that decision may have already been made – whether it is to welcome Peterson back once he has served his league punishment or to move forward without him and rebuild the offense with Teddy Bridgewater as the centerpiece.

There will be plenty of speculation as to what the decision will be and it has been divisive among those trying to guess. Some contend you don’t just let the game’s premier running back get away without anything in the way of compensation. There are others who maintain that the damage has been done to the Vikings image and that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair it. There are still more who say the Vikings want Peterson back, but not at the contract amount he’s due in 2015.

It’s all speculation because nobody outside of Winter Park knows for sure. Inside Winter Park, however, the plan has likely been laid out and the organization is going to move forward based on that decision. The difference between having Peterson and not having him can’t be much bigger to the future of the team. If the Vikings are moving on without him, it may well be discovered once free agency begins. If Peterson is going to be allowed to leave, it will free up $13 million that can be spent in free agency, whether on a replacement running back or other positions of need with free agents capable of filling the void. If the plan is to bring A.P. back, the attack plan for free agency will be altered considerably.

Don’t expect any announcement or public proclamation to come soon. If one does, it almost certainly won’t come from the Vikings. It will likely come from Peterson or his agent if and when they are informed of the Vikings’ future plan.

Choices don’t get much more difficult than the one the Vikings are facing. Much like when Green Bay moved on from Brett Favre or Indianapolis went forward without Peyton Manning, the Vikings are faced with the tough decision as to whether to keep a future Hall of Famer on the roster or part ways and start the process of finding someone to fill that void. When the Packers and Colts were faced with the same dilemma, both of them had a plan in place before the decision was made and, in both instances, it worked out well for the organization. Aaron Rodgers was tabbed to replace Favre. Andrew Luck stepped in to replace Manning. Both of those decisions turned out to be the best long-term move for both franchises.

Are the Vikings ready to move on without Peterson as the face of the offense? They got a lot of practice at it in 2014. Neither option will come as a great shock to fans or players because they’ve already had more than four months to prepare.

We may not find out until March or April what the team’s final decision will be, but don’t believe that they’re waiting and wondering themselves. That call likely has already been made. It’s just a matter of when the team opts to pull the trigger on the decision.

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