EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The first, and almost certainly last, game action of Adrian Peterson's preseason will come on Sunday night in San Francisco, when the Vikings put the reigning NFL MVP on the field before a national TV audience for a few carries against the 49ers.
Coach Leslie Frazier was still unwilling to share many details about how the Vikings will use Peterson on Sunday night, but it will be interesting to see if the Vikings get anywhere close to the workload they've typically given Peterson in their third preseason game.
He's logged double-digit carries in every Week 3 preseason game of his career, topping out at 14 carries for 81 yards against Dallas in 2011 -- the only preseason where he's seen action with Frazier as coach. Then again, as cautious as the Vikings were with Peterson in the 2012 preseason, holding him out of all four games as he recovered from knee surgery before handing him the ball 348 times in the regular season, they couldn't be blamed for taking it easy on him this week.
Still, there might be some benefit in giving Peterson more than a few token carries on Sunday night; not for the running back, but for Christian Ponder.
The Vikings' third-year quarterback has spent most of the preseason getting a chance to throw the ball, but without Peterson on the field, the team hasn't exactly made an attempt to strike a realistic balance on offense. Ponder has been in the shotgun for 21 of his 27 preseason snaps, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has called designed runs on just seven of those snaps.
There's no secret the Vikings' offense is built around Peterson, not Ponder, and while their plan for the first two games has been to get their quarterback some work, it'll be much easier to evaluate Ponder when he has two quarters to benefit from Peterson's considerable influence.
"To say a team [doesn't] see me back there, so you know what, we're going to add two extra guys in the box to put some pressure on the quarterback, I'd be lying to you to say that doesn't change it up a little bit," Peterson said.
Asked how much he'd like to play on Sunday, Peterson said, "Maybe like a half. But then again, I look at it like the coaches look at it and ownership [looks at it]. That's the picture we've got to look at. I understand that. I'll just go out there and accept whatever they put on my plate to get done."
With him on the field Sunday night, the Vikings will be much closer to presenting the offense they'll actually use when they open the regular season Sept. 8. If they're trying to see whether Ponder can be more productive with both Peterson and a revamped receiving corps, Sunday night will be their best preview.