MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings spent part of the final day before free agency at the University of Oklahoma, where general manager Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu got a look at two Sooners running backs the team could pursue in the draft next month.
The Vikings' trip came a decade after they drafted Adrian Peterson seventh overall out of Oklahoma, starting a 10-year run that saw the running back win three rushing titles, earn a league MVP award following a stirring return from a torn ACL and set the franchise record for rushing yards.
On Thursday, Peterson will become a free agent for the first time in his career, and he will enter a new realm of his NFL life that could lead him to a new team. The Vikings have kept the door open for the 31-year-old running back's return but have made it clear to Peterson (and many of their other free agents) that they want to deal with their offensive line issues before doling out many other contracts in free agency. If the team makes an offer to Peterson, it might not come until sometime next week.
In the meantime, Peterson has been working out at his gym in Houston, posting a series of videos designed to show he's in good shape after tearing his meniscus in September and missing the final two games of the season with an adductor strain after he came back to face the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 18. Peterson posted the latest video Wednesday, with a message thanking fans for their continued support and a caption that detailed how quickly he recovered from surgery.
"Anything is possible when you believe what God says about your situation!" the video caption reads, as music plays and a camera pans up on a picture of Peterson. "Example ... Here I am 12 weeks post op from a 6 to 8 month procedure, 2 days of practice and played that Sunday Week 14."
The clip then shows footage from Peterson's first full practice with the Vikings. The running back breaks through the line on several plays before catching a swing pass from Sam Bradford. It ends with a caption that reads, "God given ability and body awareness."
Whether the clip was meant to prove a point to those wondering whether Peterson can still play or show interested teams that he is fit, Peterson is in something of a different reality from his first 10 seasons in the league. He hasn't been in any trouble since his NFL suspension in 2014, but unlike when he returned in 2015, he's dealing with questions about what he can still do on a football field. The NFL's two-day negotiating window left unanswered the question of what Peterson's market will look like once teams can sign players at 3 p.m. CT Thursday, and the running back is likely headed toward a significant reduction in pay after years as the league's top-paid player at his position.
His years of success in I-formation backfields make teams such as the Oakland Raiders a logical fit for Peterson, and he could be ill-suited for those that operate out of the shotgun regularly. Peterson, who has carried 2,418 times in his 10 seasons, might have to contend with the possibility that he won't be given the same workload he has previously enjoyed.
Peterson has said that he enjoys proving people wrong, and there's little doubt that he'll relish the opportunity to do so again. He's said to be in no rush to sign with a team, and it's possible he'll take free-agent visits to acclimate himself with other organizations; those teams might have interest in letting their medical staffs assess Peterson in person.
However the next few days or weeks play out for the running back, he'll likely view it as the opening act of his next grand comeback narrative. Perhaps he'll make good on the chance. It just remains to be seen how, where and for how much money he'll get the opportunity.