Tuesday's SportsNation chat with rife with healthy debate about the Minnesota Vikings' plan for the return of tailback Adrian Peterson. You're mostly happy about the decision to hold him out of meaningless preseason games, but I'm surprised how many of you don't think he should play in the early stages of the regular season as well.
Here's how that part of the conversation went:
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Are the Vikings really going to foolish enough to risk Peterson's career, and the franchise's future, by allowing him to start Week 1? Or is this just media talk and a smoke screen by Minnesota?
Kevin Seifert (2:14 PM)
Why would it risk his career? Everyone heals differently. If the medical people say the leg is sound, and the football people see him practicing with abandon, why wouldn't you play him?
Why are the Vikings bringing AP back this early? Why not PUP list him and have him come back Week 7? It's not like the Vikings are making the playoffs this year.
Kevin Seifert (2:19 PM)
Because you never, ever give up on the start of an NFL season. Ever. All healthy hands on deck, every week. It's the only way to maintain the integrity of the game.
Matt (Oconto Falls, WI)
Re: Peterson on the PUP--I don't think a player can practice with the team if he is on the PUP list, can he? Plus, from a practical standpoint, why would Zygi and co. not want him out there? He's the main (only?) reason they well sell tickets this season.
Kevin Seifert (2:38 PM)
Correct. Once a player practices he's ineligible for PUP. But regardless of tickets, it's an integrity issue. If you're stashing healthy players in September, when everyone has a chance, you're overthinking the situation.
I understand the implications here. Some of you view self-preservation as a powerful motivator to bring Peterson back too quickly, a potentially disastrous decision. Coach Leslie Frazier has a 6-16 career record and needs to have a good season to ensure his return in 2013. Rick Spielman wants his first season as the general manager to demonstrate progress. Owner Zygi Wilf wants to sell tickets.
Frankly, though, self-interest isn't part of the equation at this point. All the Vikings have done so far is let Peterson practice for two weeks in gradually increasing increments. They haven't let him get hit often, if at all, and they have made no commitments about playing him in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Eventually, of course, this will become an integrity issue. The only way to preserve the integrity of a franchise, and the game, is to make this a pure medical decision. When team doctors deem Peterson's knee structurally sound, and their coaches are confident he is practicing without mental or physical limitations, he has to be back on the field.
At that point, there wouldn't be any medical advantage to holding Peterson out of games. You can't heal beyond "healed." And this isn't a cryogenic lab. The Vikings can't "preserve" Peterson for a time when they think they will be more competitive. By playing him in Week 1, they're not risking the long-term future of the knee, assuming he has been competently cleared by the medical staff.
The Vikings also wouldn't be "wasting" Peterson in a losing season. They're doing what every professional franchise should: Using every resource within reach to win. That should be especially relevant in the beginning of the season, a time when all 32 teams have the same mathematical chance to reach the playoffs.
Perhaps a team would be justified in sitting and/or resting a key player at the end of a lost season. At the beginning? Unjustifiable, in my opinion.