Following up on the ongoing story. ... Roughly four months into his post-surgical rehabilitation from the torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments he suffered in a game last Dec. 24, Adrian Peterson is still plenty fast -- at least while running in a straight line. He's exercising without pain or problems and ahead of the average pace for this injury recovery.
But as Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell noted, that doesn't mean he's assured of being in the backfield when the Vikings start the regular season Sept. 9, no matter how determined his mind or how supernatural his body might be.
'I'm not going to say with certainty that Adrian is going to play in our first game,' Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said. 'That wouldn't be fair to me to him or to this organization. That's a long way off from now, and we certainly have a long road to get to that point.'
Peterson, though, left no doubt. The former first-round pick said he's set on playing from the start -- and not in a limited role.
'Full throttle,' was his prediction. 'I'll be disappointed if I'm not,' Peterson said.
Somehow, the Vikings must be able to find the balance between caution toward their franchise player's long-term health and acknowledgment of Peterson's unique healing ability and physical skill.
The Vikings opened part of Peterson's regular rehab drills to the media on Wednesday, with more than three-dozen reporters and photographers watching him run around at the indoor field at Winter Park. Peterson had the operation Dec. 30, and Sugarman said he's now safe for any activity.
The current goal is to restore function, comfort and confidence in the knee and to bring his conditioning back to normal.
Peterson estimated his explosiveness is at about 50 percent. His ability to change direction and speed ahead out of a cut will be the last and most critical piece of his recovery. For now, at least, he said his confidence is 'light years' ahead of where it was four months ago.
There's no plan for exactly when he can put pads on and practice with the team once formal practices begin later this summer and, Sugarman said, no point in putting a timetable on how long he'll need between his first practice and clearance to play in a real game.
They're not wasting any time, though, as evidenced by Wednesday's drills.
Sugarman rolled him a soccer ball as he shuffled from side to side in a basketball defense pose and tossed it back. Then Peterson ran around in a circle before practicing his explosion out of a pivot. He ran with a slight limp the width of the field. Then he high-jumped onto stacks of boxes. The rapid-fire pace of the activities left Peterson needing a rest.
'Those guys know my limit, and they push me to it,' Peterson said.
Sugarman said Peterson's left quadriceps is back to about 80 percent strength. Peterson also has no swelling in his left leg and has regained normal motion.
"Now it's all the functional stuff," Sugarman said. "Which is really the hard stuff. That takes months."
As for the speed?
When the Vikings reported for the start of the offseason strength and conditioning program no April 28, Peterson wanted to get in on the fun.
"He was off to the side working with our trainer, Eric Sugarman, and he looked out and saw the guys doing their wind sprints," head coach Leslie Frazier recounted. "He says, 'You know, I don't think they're running hard enough.' Eric allowed him to go out and run with them, and he passed them four different times. He finished in first four different times."
But a running back needs more than straight-line speed.
Indeed, Peterson's biggest steps ahead will revolve around regaining strength and learning to fully trust his knee again. He'll also keep working on making those nifty, elusive cuts that make him so dangerous.
"Right now, when he tries to stop on a dime, he looks like he's on ice," Sugarman said. "That's normal. Deceleration is the hardest thing for those guys. Now we're starting to pound all that over the next couple months -- function and deceleration. That should just take us right to where hopefully he needs to be."
Where he needs to be is back in the Vikings' starting lineup. When that will be?
The trainer and the star running back may not quite see eye-to-eye on setting a date.
"He'll keep throwing that out there. And good for him," Sugarman told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Tuesday. "That's great. That's obviously our goal, to get him playing the first game. But only if he's functionally safe to do it. This is our franchise. We can't be foolish about this."
So, as Star-Tribune staffer Dan Wiederer suggested, there's plenty to be encouraged by in Peterson's rehab. But there's still a long way to go before the Vikings' will be ready to give him the green light. That said, Peterson has attacked his recovery and is clearly a man on a mission.
As general manager Rick Spielman said earlier this year: "He's not like most running backs that I've been around through my career. He is just a freak athletically and you can see that in his rehab and how quickly he's coming back from this ACL and I know he wants to go out there and prove to everybody he's a better Adrian Peterson than he was before the injury."
From a Fantasy perspective, we'll recommend a wait-and-see approach. Peterson has five full seasons under his belt and the notion that he'll be better than he was before tearing his ACL seems like a reach.
That said, there's no reason to believe the Vikings don't truly believe he'll continue on as their most dangerous offensive weapon for the foreseeable future.