Spielman: Zimmer key cog in Peterson’s return

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Mike Zimmer’s approach with players helped bring Adrian Peterson back to Minnesota, a sentiment that Peterson acknowledged, too.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Adrian Peterson “volunteered” to return to the team this week after not practicing with them since his legal issues last fall.

Zimmer and Peterson spoke after the coach said last week that Peterson had two choices: play for the Vikings or no one at all, meaning the team remained resolute in not wanting to trade him. Zimmer said that comment wasn’t intended to be confrontational.

But it’s clear that the Vikings head coach had an influence in getting Peterson back in Minnesota this week.

“Maybe more so than he knows,” Peterson said. “He’s just one of those guys, one of those coaches, that you really don’t want to disappoint, because you understand, you’re able to see that he has the same passion for the game as you. And he’s going to do the right thing.”

General manager Rick Spielman acknowledged Zimmer’s influence on Peterson, and the rest of the players, with his no-nonsense approach.

“I think Coach Zimmer has a great relationship with players in general, and his ability to communicate with them,” Spielman said Wednesday as the team visited an elementary school in Falcon Heights, Minn. “As you know, there’s not much filter with Coach Zimmer, but I think players, that’s why they respect him. Not only is he a great teacher and going to make them better football players, but they have the utmost respect for him on how he handles (situations).”

Peterson attended the event at the elementary school and, along with other teammates, signed autographs for the kids. He said on Tuesday that Zimmer’s approach to the game and his players resonates positively with him.

“A guy that’s started two years, and someone comes in and outplays this guy, he’s going to put him in there or just shoot it to you straight whether you like it or not. Me as a competitor, I love that type of mentality, and he’s always been straightforward with me during this process,” Peterson said. “He’s been supportive as well. So yeah, you know, considering the other coaches as well and Coach Zimmer, that played a role (in returning to the team).”
Zimmer said the Wilf ownership group was always involved in the process and “never wavered in their support for him” as Peterson dealt with child abuse charges in Texas after disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch. Peterson eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault.

Zimmer never wavered either.

“I will help him in any possible way that I can. I know these players in this locker room will help him in any possible way that they can, too,” Zimmer said. “He’s a Minnesota Viking. He’s one of our guys. He’s going to be wearing the purple with us and fighting with us and sweating with us.”

Spielman said Peterson’s return means the Vikings are going to be “pretty deep” in the backfield with Matt Asiata as a short-yardage back and Jerick McKinnon’s solid rookie performance in Peterson’s absence last year.

Mostly, though, the feeling of those in the organization is this week is the beginning of the end of the extended Peterson saga.

“We’re excited to get this kind of resolved,” Spielman said, “and I think everybody is very excited about moving forward with this.”

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