A couple of days after running back Adrian Peterson returned to the Vikings sooner than most — including some of his teammates — expected, it was back to business as usual Thursday as they continued their voluntary organized team activities.
It would be pretty much impossible for a player of Peterson’s pedigree to blend in with the others wearing purple practice jerseys. But beyond his rare abilities on the field, Peterson seems to be making a smooth transition back into the mix with teammates, both new and old, who welcomed him back when he rejoined the Vikings earlier this week.
“That was so three days ago,” outside linebacker Chad Greenway said, slightly sarcastically.
The players’ initial and overwhelming giddiness, which disrupted Peterson’s first practice with the Vikings since his exile started last September, has subsided. But excitement remains high at Winter Park with the former league MVP back in the offense taking handoffs from Teddy Bridgewater and catching passes out of the backfield.
“His first day back on Tuesday, we made a few mistakes out here in the wind,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “At practice we were giving coach [Mike Zimmer] a hard time, because I said, ‘No matter what, we got better today. [Number] 28 walked in the door. We’ll clean up the mistakes, but we got better.’ ”
Zimmer wasn’t pleased with the sloppy practice Tuesday, but he understood. Many players didn’t know Peterson was back until they walked in to Winter Park that morning.
“Everybody was welcoming him with open arms. Everyone was happy,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “They were like, ‘AD! You’re back!’ So everybody was happy that he came back. All along, we were just hoping that he was going to come back through those doors and he did.”
That even includes second-year running back Jerick McKinnon, who surrendered his starting spot when Peterson returned.
“It’s an opportunity to learn from the best running back in the game,” McKinnon said. “The physical standpoint of athletes at this level is going to take care of itself. But it’s more about the mental aspect and knowledge and stuff like that. So I just get to learn more from him, keep growing.”
The Vikings are still running around in shorts right now, so players are going through the motions after the handoff. But Munnerlyn said Peterson arrived in great shape and showed no signs of rust in the team’s three practices this week.
“He’s been out of football for almost a whole year, but a guy like him, though … I haven’t been around him in six months. I didn’t know he was going to come back in this type of shape,” Munnerlyn said. “He’s in unbelievable shape, like he never lost a step. And he’s out to prove a point.”