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Zulgad: In this situation, Adrian Peterson is smart to put himself ahead of the Vikings

By Judd Zulgad

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Adrian Peterson long ago made the decision that he would put himself ahead of the Vikings when it came to his potential return from a Week 2 injury suffered against Green Bay.

The running back did that the day he opted to have a full repair of the meniscus in his right knee instead of a trim that could accelerated his return but put his long-term future at risk.

So it should have come as no surprise on Wednesday when Peterson, speaking to the media for the first time in months, made it clear that he would return only if the Vikings won their next two games and remained in playoff contention. (Peterson would not give an exact game for when he might be back but the Christmas Eve game at Green Bay is a good guess.)

“I wouldn’t return for obvious reasons,” if the Vikings lost to Jacksonville and Indianapolis, Peterson said. “I’m not going to get into details about that but my vision is making it to the playoffs. That’s what I believe and that’s what I have my eyes on right now.”

That’s not entirely true. What Peterson, and his camp, have their eyes on is protecting a 31-year-old who has his sights set on continuing his career for several more years.

There have been times where Peterson’s logic has been baffling. The most obvious example came in 2014 when he faced child-abuse charges and yet somehow came away angry at the Vikings after he was suspended for most of that season. Peterson somehow saw himself as the victim and the Vikings as the bad guy.

In that situation, he could not have been more out of line. In this situation, Peterson is doing the right thing and owes no one an apology.

Even if the Vikings remain in the playoff hunt, Peterson might have to think twice about coming back for the final two regular-season games against the Packers and Chicago.

Peterson was averaging an anemic 1.6 yards per rush before he was injured in the third quarter on Sept. 18 against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium. Peterson has long talked about, “famine, famine, feast,” when it comes to his running style – meaning he loses a yard, gains 3 and then goes for 78 – but his longest run on 31 attempts was only 9 yards.

This was in large part because Peterson was being hit almost as soon as he touched the ball due to an offensive line that had early-season issues in its run protection schemes. Those issues have only gotten worse as the line has gone from shaky to atrocious in part because of injuries. There is no feast for Vikings running backs in 2016, only a lot of famine. The Vikings are averaging an NFL-worst 3.0 yards per rushing attempt.

So why would Peterson want to put himself in a position to either have little impact after a three-month layoff or, worse yet, get injured again?

There are some who will say that if Peterson comes back and is successful that will create a market for him if he chooses to leave the Vikings after this season. That opportunity should exist because the Vikings almost certainly will attempt to restructure a contract that right now would pay Peterson a base salary of $11.75 million in 2017 and carry a salary-cap hit of $18 million.

Considering Sam Bradford’s base salary will be $13 million next season, and his salary-cap hit will be $17 million, the Vikings would be foolish to keep an aging running back on their payroll at an outrageous salary.

Peterson could roll the dice, return to the field for the last two games of this season, and maybe even a playoff game, and attempt to show that he’s still one of the best players at his position. Or he could look as feeble as Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata have running behind this offensive line and decrease any value he might have left.

This doesn’t seem like that tough of choice for Peterson. He has always put himself first and he’s not going to stop now.

And, in this case, no one should blame him for that.

The post Zulgad: In this situation, Adrian Peterson is smart to put himself ahead of the Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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