Adrian Peterson's return from major knee surgery has gone well enough that the Minnesota Vikings tailback is on pace to make his preseason debut as early as Friday night and then open the regular season as the team's starter. Everything has moved so quickly that we haven't asked the question ESPN's Adam Schefter broached in the video.
Why play Peterson in the preseason at all?
Schefter noted that Peterson might play Friday against the San Diego Chargers and added: "But as one NFL executive said to me, 'Why would they even do that? You know he doesn't have to get ready. You know you don't need to subject him to contact. If they think he'll be ready for the [regular season] opener, put him out there on that particular day. No need to get him extra hits and punishment."
To be clear, the Vikings have made no final decision about Peterson's preseason availability. Sunday, coach Leslie Frazier said: "We'll probably just see how he does with some of the stuff we'll give him and probably make a determination by Tuesday or Wednesday on if we want to do anymore."
You could make an argument that a player who tore two knee ligaments in his last game could benefit from some reassurance, the kind that only comes with live hitting in a game, that he has fully recovered. But that would be more for mental recovery than any part of Peterson's physical rehabilitation. Is that portion worth the risk of injury and extra contact Peterson would receive in a preseason game?
Remember, Peterson is 27 years old and already has five years of NFL pounding on his body. He probably doesn't need to be reintroduced to the speed and violence of the game after missing a grand total of one game in the 2011 regular season and two in the 2012 preseason since the injury.
We'll soon find out where the Vikings stand on that issue.