The Minnesota Vikings have reconvened from their winter break, with most of the roster assembled at team headquarters for daily strength and conditioning workouts.
Adrian Peterson, of course, has been conspicuously missing.
“The guys in the locker room, we all love Adrian,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “But right now we have to focus on the guys who are here. We’re going to continue get better.”
The star running back rarely participated in the offseason activities that weren’t contractually required in the past, preferring to prepare with his personal trainer in Houston where he lives. That’s the case again this year.
The difference now? Peterson has said he was uneasy about a return to the Vikings. He was recently reinstated by the NFL from the suspension for the child abuse charge that kept him off the field for all but one game last season, but his preference is to start fresh elsewhere. Peterson has three years and $45 million remaining on his contract, but none of that money is guaranteed.
From team owners to front office executives to the coaching staff to the players up and down the roster, the Vikings have repeatedly promised to welcome Peterson back to the team after his unexpected 2014 hiatus. Players who spoke to reporters Monday after their weightlifting sessions and running drills spoke carefully about the situation, with some deferring to general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer, but the message remained the same from throughout the winter.
“I stay away from talking about the guys’ contracts and everything, because that’s none of my personal business,” Bridgewater said. “But like I said, ‘We expect him to be here this year.’”
Bridgewater was invited last month to Peterson’s 30th birthday party, a lavish event that included the featured guest riding on a camel in photos that circulated through social media. Bridgewater, for the record, didn’t ride.
“But we had a pretty good time,” he said.
The Vikings could use Peterson in the backfield this season to relieve some of the pressure on Bridgewater, who will now have Mike Wallace to throw to as well as returning wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson, plus any rookies from the draft.
Spielman told Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, last month that the Vikings won’t release him. Zimmer told reporters a little later there’s no interest in trading him. If the Vikings were enticed by an offer and Peterson were to be dealt this year, though, that would more than likely take place this week before or during the draft.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said he and Peterson spoke recently. They’ve been teammates since Peterson was picked seventh overall in the 2007 draft.
“We had a good conversation. When you play with a guy going on nine years you have a great relationship, and I do with him,” Greenway said. “He said his peace, and I just heard him out. Obviously, he brings a lot to our team, and we’d love to have him back this offseason and start working with him.”
Meanwhile, life marches on.
For Wallace, who raved about the welcome he’s had from by his new teammates, there’s new playbook terminology to learn.
“I don’t know anybody up here. I have a lot of time to study,” he said.
Greenway is trying to get his body ready for what could be his 10th and final year in the league, having taken a pay cut to return.
Bridgewater, as buoyant as ever Monday, looked ahead to attending the Kentucky Derby this weekend in the state where he became a college star. He took in a hockey game Sunday when the Minnesota Wild beat the St. Louis Blues to advance in the NHL playoffs. Call them occasional rewards during an offseason of arduous training for second-season improvement.
“I feel bigger and stronger,” Bridgewater said. “Hopefully, I can look it also.”
Vikings unanimous in wanting Peterson back
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