Caution tempers optimism on Peterson's return date

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 8, 2012 - 10:00 PM

The RB has a Sept. 9 target - if the head trainer approves.

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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wants to be back in action by Sept. 9, the day the Vikings open the 2012 season against Jacksonville, after undergoing surgery on his left knee Dec. 30.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune file

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Adrian Peterson still has that optimistic goal, one he hasn't backed down from since having surgery Dec. 30 in Alabama to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. Peterson wants to be back in action by Sept. 9, the day the Vikings open the 2012 season against Jacksonville.

Eric Sugarman has the same goal for the star running back. Only Sugarman, the Vikings' head athletic trainer, wants to attach an asterisk to all the talk of a triumphant opening day return.

"I love Adrian," Sugarman said Tuesday. "But let's make this clear: I'm still not going to be quoted as saying he's going to play in the first game. That's not fair. I don't know that."

So what about Peterson's eagerness to vocalize Sept. 9 as a potential milestone date?

"He'll keep throwing that out there. And good for him," Sugarman said. "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."

On Wednesday, Peterson and Sugarman will hold a news conference to update the progress of the eager running back's rehabilitation. To save you the suspense, Sugarman's message will be straightforward: There's plenty to be encouraged by in Peterson's rehab. But there's still a long way to go before the Vikings' medical team will be ready to activate the green light.

To this point, now nearly 19 weeks removed from surgery, Peterson has attacked his recuperation without setback. He began running on land again in late March and has progressed to where he is trying to cut.

On Wednesday, he may even give the local media a glimpse into his progress by performing several rehab drills in the Winter Park field house.

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."

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.

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