EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —
Former Oklahoma star Adrian Peterson has been cleared for takeoff.
The reigning NFL MVP will make his preseason debut against the San Francisco 49ers this week, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said on Sunday. Peterson sat out the first two games against Houston and Buffalo and hasn’t played in an exhibition game since 2011. The Vikings held the star running back out of all four games in the preseason last year while he worked his way back from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
Frazier wasn’t ready to divulge exactly how much Peterson will play at San Francisco, but there is no question that his mere presence should be a boon to a starting offense that looked awfully ragged in its first extensive playing time of the preseason at Buffalo last week.
“Without Adrian Peterson in our scheme, it impacts our offense tremendously, because he’s the focal point,” Frazier said. “Yeah, it definitely makes a difference. That will be obvious when we open up the season. It’s obvious if you look at us from a season ago, and it showed on Friday night.”
Christian Ponder and the rest of the starting offense sans Peterson played five series against the Bills. Ponder went 5 of 12 for 53 yards.
The offense failed to get a first down on four of the five possessions while Ponder was in the game and managed just three points.
It is unlikely that Peterson will play that deep into the game against one of the league’s toughest defenses. But just getting him out there at all will be a change of pace from last year. Peterson was working on coming back from a horrific knee injury in December of 2012, and the Vikings weren’t about to take any chances with the face of their franchise.
Even though Peterson lobbied to get a little playing time so he could get back into a rhythm, sitting all four games didn’t hurt him one bit. He rushed for 2,097, nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record, and 12 touchdowns, with eight runs of at least 40 yards in a jaw-dropping comeback season. He carried the Vikings into the playoffs, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers in the first round.
“We want to be a balanced offense,” Frazier said. “But as anyone that follows us knows, our offense is going to be run through No. 28, through Adrian.”
Whether he plays for a series, a quarter or a half, and whether he gets one carry or 10, there is no doubt that having Peterson in the backfield gives the offense additional confidence.
“That’s our back, and we definitely would like to have him out there, without a doubt,” right tackle Phil Loadholt said.