EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Each time he puts on his purple jersey and takes the practice field with the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson moves further past the lost 2014 season that included a child abuse charge against him.
He still has two-plus weeks to go before he’ll suit up for a game.
Peterson and the Vikings reported to training camp more than a month ago. The extra exhibition game this year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the latest possible Labor Day date has pushed the 2015 season openers into mid-September.
Peterson likely will take that first handoff from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Sept. 14 against the San Francisco 49ers, with 372 days between games for the record-setting running back who missed the last 15 games of the 2014 season while his case played out in court and in the NFL’s disciplinary system.
Peterson, who hasn’t appeared in a preseason game since 2011, has been held out of action in August to protect him from injury.
“It’s just about just doing what’s best for myself, the team and the organization,” he said.
Plenty of high-profile players have been felled by season-ending injuries this month, reinforcing the decision by the Vikings to keep Peterson safely on the sideline. There have been ruptured Achilles tendons and torn anterior cruciate ligaments, renewing the annual calls to condense the exhibition schedule.
“It’s not basketball. This is football. Guys are being chopped below their knees and guys are running and colliding into each other going 100 miles per hour. So there’s a high level for risk for major injuries,” Peterson said. “You look at the numbers, and it shows that. I think it’s something they need to take into consideration and maybe turn it into three games in the preseason or something.”
If there’s one game this month Peterson would enjoy playing in, it would be Saturday against Dallas. Though he has a home outside of Houston, he grew up in Palestine, about a two-hour drive southeast of AT&T Stadium in Arlington where the Cowboys play. Trips with the Vikings to Texas are always special, even though he’ll be a spectator for the night.
“Any time you go home, it’s a good time. I’m looking forward to some great barbecue down there in Dallas,” Peterson said.
Texas is also where Peterson’s felony charge, for badly injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch, was reduced to a misdemeanor in Montgomery County court outside of Houston. He avoided jail time, but he was kept out for 15 of 16 games last season while the NFL assessed his case and ultimately suspended him.
Visiting the Cowboys sparks some nostalgia for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, too. He was an assistant for Dallas for 13 years, winning a Super Bowl after the 1995 season. He still has a home in the area and hunts with Stephen Jones, the Cowboys chief operating officer and executive vice president.
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was on staff in Dallas, and the Cowboys won Super Bowls in two of his three years.
“I’ve still got tons and tons of people that worked in the building that I’m friends with,” Zimmer said.
However, the primary purpose of the trip concerns Zimmer. Facing the Cowboys, a playoff team last season, in the week that keeps the starters on the field the longest of all the exhibition games will be a valuable evaluative tool for Zimmer and his staff.
“It’s great that we’re playing a team that’s very, very talented because it gives me a better understanding of our team and where we’re at and guys they’re going against,” Zimmer said. “You always look at different matchups, anyway, whoever we’re playing. There will be some good matchups this week that we’ll have to contend with.”
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)