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Friday, December 13, 2013
Vikings: Peterson decision feels familiar

By Ben Goessling

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The final decision about whether Adrian Peterson will play on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles did not come on Friday. It will come on Saturday or Sunday, and it will be made by head coach Leslie Frazier and trainer Eric Sugarman, with input from the running back on how he feels after working out Saturday.

Here's the dilemma they're likely to face: They have the reigning league MVP, a week removed from suffering a foot injury that has sidelined many of his peers for games at a time. They're mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but a couple wins in the final three games of the season could go a long way toward saving Frazier's job. And they're likely to get a strong -- make that vehement -- suggestion from the MVP that he can and should play on Sunday.

Adrian Peterson
Will star RB Adrian Peterson be able to play Sunday despite his foot injury? Teammate Toby Gerhart seems to think so. "He's Superman," Gerhart said.
"We've been down this road before, where we had to go work him out the day of a game," Frazier said. "He's amazing when it comes to recovering from injuries. He's so different. He doesn't like to sit. He believes he's more than capable of getting out there, and he'll let you know."

Does any of this sound familiar?

The Vikings were in a similar position late in the 2010 season, when they'd listed Brett Favre as out for a Monday night game against the Chicago Bears with a sprained shoulder. The Vikings were 5-8 headed into the game, and Frazier had yet to have the interim tag removed from his title. Favre was upgraded to questionable before the game, and wound up starting before sustaining a concussion at TCF Bank Stadium on what turned out to be the final play of his career.

The Ol' Gunslinger's name even came up on Friday when Peterson was talking about his own resolve to play.

"We didn't get into depth about it, but it was easy for me to see with Favre," Peterson said. "He's strong mentally. I've seen him take brutal beatings in games, and he continues to get right back up and throw the ball and throw punches. That's the type of mentality you've got to have to play in this league -- and be great."

Peterson, like Favre, is supremely confident in his ability to beat the healing curve. He's proven that before now, as Favre had many times in his career before that Monday night game, and in Favre's case -- as in Peterson's -- the Vikings were playing a division-leading opponent with whom they'd undoubtedly match up better with their former MVP on the field.

That's bound to be quite the temptation for Frazier, but the difference between Peterson and Favre is the future; Peterson is signed through 2017, while Favre was at the end of the road. Foot injuries can be chronic problems for running backs, as ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell pointed out this week, and if there's any risk of him hurting his foot even more, that should put an even greater burden of proof on the Vikings to deem Peterson fit to play.

On Friday, Frazier almost sounded grateful for the ability to let medical professionals weigh in on the situation.

"You listen to the players, for sure," he said. "You listen to what they say about their bodies. But there's a reason we have a medical staff in place, to decipher what's the best thing to do, and also what we've seen. If we do decide to work him out prior to the game, that'll be part of the evaluation as well."

As Peterson proved emphatically during his 2,097-yard comeback tour from a torn ACL last year, he's not normal when it comes to injuries. He heals faster, tolerates more pain and does more work to recover than most, and all that will play in his favor as he argues to play this weekend.

"He's Superman," said running back Toby Gerhart, who is also pushing to play Sunday after straining his right hamstring in the Ravens game. "As long as there isn't any kryptonite around, I think he'll be alright."

What the Vikings need to determine is whether a more significant foot injury could in fact be Peterson's kryptonite, whether it's worth letting him try once again to leap medical standards in a single bound and whether their own temptation to play him -- which is sure to be strong -- must be checked against the risk of further issues with their franchise player's foot.

All that makes the Vikings' decision a tricky one, especially when one possible avenue involves trying to convince the game's best running back he shouldn't try to help an embattled coaching staff win a game.

"You don't want to see regression," Frazier said. "You want to see him keep improving, to the point where he's comfortable, we're comfortable. That will be the biggest indicator."