Adrian Peterson returns to Vikings

Adrian Peterson is returning to the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday for his first practice since September 2014.

He’s back.

Adrian Peterson is returning to the Minnesota Vikings Tuesday to begin practices at this week’s organized team activities, he told ESPN.

“I’m returning because I want to. I’m part of this football team and I owe it to the guys I play with and to our coaches,” Peterson told ESPN. “I was planning on coming in this week, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field. It’s what I love to do.”

Peterson hasn’t practiced with the Vikings since before the second week of the 2014 NFL season. He played in the Vikings’ season-opening win, then spent the final 15 games of the season away from the team because of legal issues after he was charged with child abuse in Texas and eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault. He was suspended for six games and spent time on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.

He was reinstated by the NFL in April but didn’t attend the first week of OTAs. Throughout the offseason, Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, pushed for a trade, something the Vikings said they weren’t going to do. After that became apparent following a draft that left Peterson on the roster, Dogra intimated that more guaranteed money for Peterson would help.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said last week that Peterson’s options were simple.

“Adrian, he’s really got two choices: He can play for us or he can not play,” Zimmer said. “He’s not going to play for anybody else and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

Although Zimmer said last week that he and Peterson hadn’t talked recently, they reportedly changed that course shortly after Zimmer’s comments.

Throughout the offseason saga, Peterson has made it clear his dissatisfaction with the team wasn’t with the coaching staff or teammates, but with the way the Vikings handled his situation last year, agreeing to have him placed on the exempt list and therefore not play while he dealt with his legal issues.

Teammates last week roundly supported Peterson’s return and said there wouldn’t be any hard feelings.

“Adrian’s got to do what he’s got to do. Obviously we would love to him back. He’s a great player,” left tackle Matt Kalil said. “If he came back I have no doubt he would be the best running back in the league. He’s got to handle his stuff.”

“… Adrian Peterson, so I think everyone knows what he’s capable of. He came off knee surgery and got MVP, so if that doesn’t tell you much.”

Peterson’s return to the Vikings should be a boon to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who never got the chance to play with Peterson. While Peterson played in the season opener, Bridgewater didn’t play until starting quarterback Matt Cassel suffered broken bones in his foot in Week 3.

“We love Adrian dearly,” Bridgewater said last week, “but like I said, we have to continue to focus on the guys that are here right now.”

One week later, Peterson is among the players practicing and his teammates are expected to embrace the return of the 2012 NFL MVP.

“We’re going to accept Adrian with welcoming arms,” Bridgewater said. “We know what he means to this team. He’s done some great things in the community here. He’s done great things for this franchise and this organization. We can’t wait to have him.”

The wait is over.



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