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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Is it in Adrian Peterson’s best interest to return this season?

By Judd Zulgad

Adrian Peterson is eligible to return from injured reserve this week and considering the state of the Vikings’ woeful running game one would expect there would be plenty of discussion about when the veteran might get back on the field.

Peterson was placed on IR after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus that he suffered in his right knee in a Week 2 victory over the Packers. He opted to have a full repair of his meniscus instead of a trim that could have had him back in several weeks but put his long-term future more at risk.

The expected timetable on Peterson’s recovery was set at three to four months. Pro Football Talk reported in late October that the best guess from Winter Park was that Peterson would be back in December and thus could be the one player Minnesota would bring back off IR.

So how’s Peterson doing in his recovery and rehab? Right now no one is commenting on his progress.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has declined to provide any information when asked about Peterson the past two weeks. “I have no idea,” Zimmer said Monday when asked if he expected Peterson to play this season. Is there any update on Peterson’s progress? “No,” Zimmer said.

It’s not surprising that Zimmer refuses to provide any information on Peterson’s status but you do have to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes.

There is no question the Vikings could use Peterson. Anyone who has watched Matt Asiata struggle to gain 1 yard can see this and an ankle injury clearly has slowed Jerick McKinnon. Peterson rushed for an NFL-leading 1,485 yards last season and even at the age of 31 he remains a running back that opponents have to respect.

But how much of a difference would Peterson make?

The Vikings are averaging 2.7 yards per rushing attempt this season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, that puts them on pace for the worst rushing average by a team in the Super Bowl era.

The problem isn’t so much the running backs as it is an offensive line that will start its fourth offensive tackle on Sunday and has had three different players start at right tackle. The interior of the line has struggled to get any type of push in short-yardage situations.

Before departing in the third quarter against the Packers, Peterson had 31 carries for 50 yards, an incredibly underwhelming 1.6-yard average in the two games. His longest run had been for 9 yards and he was being hit almost immediately after being handed the ball. Not even Peterson could break those tackles.

At the time, it was easy to wonder if something was wrong with Peterson. In retrospect, we now realize it was a total system failure of the run game and injuries on the line have only made that worse.

It’s fair to wonder how eager Peterson is going to be to jump back into this situation.

The Vikings had a 5-0 record going into the bye week, but that feel-good story has been long forgotten. Minnesota will take a four-game losing streak into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

One thing Peterson made very clear by opting to have the full repair is that he’s more concerned about his future than he is the 2016 season. Peterson is at an age when many running backs are winding down their career but this is a guy who has talked about playing until he’s 40 years old.

Peterson has a year left on his contract, but it’s almost a certainty the Vikings aren’t going to bring him back in 2018 and pay him a base salary of $11.75 million and absorb a salary-cap hit of $18 million. This is especially true given that Sam Bradford, almost certainly the Vikings quarterback in 2018, will have a base salary of $13 million and a cap hit of $17 million.

There always is the potential that Peterson will redo his contract with the Vikings, as he did a couple of years ago.

But here’s where Peterson and his camp are going to have to make a business decision. If Peterson wants to remain a productive running back for even the short term, does it make sense to return and subject himself to the punishment that could result from the line’s struggles?

Peterson’s best decision might be to sit out the remainder of this season and return healthy in 2017.

That might not be as a member of the Vikings but that wouldn’t be Peterson’s concern. Just as Peterson’s biggest concern might not be whether the Vikings get their running game going in 2016.

The post Zulgad: Is it in Adrian Peterson’s best interest to return this season? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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