Adrian Peterson was back on Tuesday practicing in pads for the first time since before the 2014 regular-season opener almost 11 months ago.
After that, of course, Peterson was away from the Minnesota Vikings for the remainder of the season dealing with his legal issues, but Tuesday marked an important step in his return to the football field with pads underneath his familiar number 28 jersey.
“It was fun. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time and it’s good to have the first day down,” Peterson said.
“I was looking forward to today. That’s really when you get the ball rolling. It’s a big difference than when you’re out there in shorts and shirts. When you get the pads on, that’s when you can really see what guys are about.”
Peterson is determined to show he still has his form that led him to the NFL MVP award in 2012, despite his time off and despite turning 30 on March 21.
While there were turbulent times during his absence, he has been able to re-establish himself as one of the leaders on the team since he returned to practices in May.
“I don’t think it ever left,” he said of his ability to return as a leader. “That’s the thing about the family I’m surrounded around. The guys have been supporting me. It’s such an unfortunate situation, but when it’s family and they know you – some of you guys, I don’t know you so I wouldn’t pass judgment based off what I’ve heard or what I’ve seen if I didn’t know what type of person you are. That’s just the type of world we live in, but these guys inside, they know me. They know what I’m made of, so as soon as I came back it was the same respect that you’d give Chad Greenway or the guys that have been here eight-plus years.”
With passing the physical test of pads on Tuesday and the mental test that the past 10-plus months have presented him, Peterson is back. All that’s left are the games.