Vikings go camping in Mankato with Peterson, renewed optimism

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson high-fives fans as he leaves the stadium against the Arizona Cardinals at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MANKATO, Minn. - Amazing what a little patience can do to a team's outlook heading into training camp.

Months ago, there was full-fledged frothing by the masses. No one, it seemed, could comprehend how the Vikings and Adrian Peterson, their best player, could ever co-exist after all the bad blood had passed between them. Peterson and his agent, Ben Dogra, were applying full-court pressure, publicly and not so neighborly, in an effort to agitate General Manager Rick Spielman to the point where he'd sign the divorce papers and either trade or release Peterson.

This campaign reached its zenith shortly before the NFL draft. Working in Peterson's favor, it appeared, was a media that hungers for rumors 24/7 with little to no regard for, you know, accuracy. Spielman didn't respond to countless speculative reports that Peterson's days with the Vikings were over and he'd end up with the Cowboys, his preferred choice, or some other fortunate team.

All Spielman could do was occasionally refer to a public stance the team had made earlier. The Vikings still wanted Peterson even when it appeared he no longer wanted them. Period, even though periods no longer signal the end of the story.

The frosty relationship began to thaw when Peterson returned to the team during the second week of OTAs despite grumbling about a contract that had no guaranteed money beyond this season. Today, as the Vikings get set to open their 50th consecutive training camp at Mankato State University this weekend, the two sides are arm in arm, happy as ever as Peterson's recently restructured deal sends them into a season full of high expectations.


As for everyone who predicted it would never happen? Well, they get another lesson in why it's not a good idea to rush to judgment and/or base final analysis of a late-summer situation on the springtime rantings of a desperate agent and a disgruntled player.

Peterson, who missed all but last year's season opener as he dealt with the ugly fallout of child abuse charges, agreed to restructure the final three years of his contract in return for more guaranteed money. At 30 years of age, he'll get $20 million guaranteed over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, whereas he would have gotten $12.75 million guaranteed for this season only under his old deal.

"I appreciate the Vikings for working together on this restructured contract, which provides additional security for me but also allows opportunities for me to further prove my value to the team and within the NFL," Peterson said in a statement released by the team. "It was important for me to continue my career in Minnesota, and I cannot wait to get on the field in front of Vikings fans again."

Meanwhile, the Vikings couldn't be happier. Even at 30, Peterson improves every facet of the team, which is a rarity during an era when the role and importance of a running back has been diminished. Not only will Peterson have fresh legs and an angry determination to dominate the league, he'll also provide some breathing room for second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to elevate a passing game that now includes a deep threat in Mike Wallace. Meanwhile, Mike Zimmer's blossoming defense should be more forceful and efficient because it should play fewer snaps.

"This agreement is a win for both Adrian and the Vikings and is a positive step toward Adrian finishing his career as a Minnesota Viking," Spielman said. "As we have consistently said, Adrian is a valuable part of the Vikings organization and we look forward to his return to the field."

With their running back situation resting at the top of the NFL, the Vikings can focus on other areas of concern. Most notably are the reshuffled offensive line, a rookie second-round draft pick at middle linebacker and the ongoing search for a suitable secondary that can stand up to the challenge of playing in Mr. Rodgers' division.

On the line, former right guard Brandon Fusco switches to left guard and is coming off a torn pectoral muscle that cost him 13 games last season. Right guard is up for grabs mostly among rookie prospects that played tackle in college. And in the secondary, the search for a safety to put next to Harrison Smith is wide open while fingers are crossed that first-round draft pick Trae Waynes can get up to speed fast enough to start at cornerback opposite rising star Xavier Rhodes.

These are the hot topics for training camp. Peterson, meanwhile, is relatively under the radar. Yes, it sure is amazing what patience at the top of a franchise can do.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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