Peterson would not say Monday whether he would entertain a smaller deal from the Vikings, who have a team option on the running back for 2017 that includes a $11.75 million base salary and $6 million roster bonus. He sounded more open to the possibility than he has in the past but stopped short of saying he would accept less money from the Vikings after missing 13 games following a torn meniscus in September.
"There's the reality that there comes a point in time where, yeah, the best thing to do is take a pay cut and it might be in the best interest of the team, as well," Peterson said. "It's one of those situations where there's guys that are, I would say, worth putting the money into as well. Like, for instance, you've got a guy like Tom Brady or a guy like Antonio Brown -- you put more money into those guys than you would do. I'm not going to name any other receivers or any other quarterback, but then you do other guys. That is what it is. That's just how things go."
The Vikings have to decide on Peterson's 2017 option by the start of the league year, and they would owe him the $6 million roster bonus if he was on the team by the third day of the league year. A restructured deal, then, would need to be completed sometime before the new league year begins on March 9.
Peterson also was asked whether he wanted to test free agency for the first time in his career.
"I think when that time comes, I'll cross that bridge," he said. "I've been taking in a lot here the past couple weeks -- just the fans here. Man, I've been here 10 years. We have a great team. We have some great things going on here in Minnesota. I would love to continue to be a part of that. That's how I'm thinking. It's not, 'Oh, free agency, I get to test this.' I'm not just going to write myself off here in Minnesota.
"I'd be lying to you to say that I haven't thought about, 'Well, what if we're not able to work things out?' So that crossed my mind. When thoughts just even cross your mind, you kind of sit back and think about all the times that you had here and your teammates and things like that."
Peterson, who had surgery on Sept. 22, came back three months after he was injured to play against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 18, beating doctors' timetable for his return by a month. He tweaked an adductor muscle in his first week back at practice but felt good enough to play against the Colts, he said. He did not play in the Vikings' final two games of the season, and said Monday he "didn't feel comfortable" enough to play on Dec. 24 against the Packers.
"I don't think I rushed it back from the standpoint of protecting the meniscus," Peterson said. "It was just unfortunate that little things occurred that slowed me down."
Peterson said Monday that his meniscus was 90 percent torn in September -- meaning an operation to trim the damage, which might have had the running back on the field within a matter of weeks, was not something that team doctor Chris Larson recommended.
"If it was like 10 percent [torn], I would have trimmed it off and been back in a couple weeks," Peterson said. "But 90 percent of your meniscus being gone, especially with how it worked out and how I play the game, it could have been six months to a year before I was bone on bone. With me knowing I have a lot left in the tank, it would have been crazy to cut off 90 percent of meniscus. So that's why I had the option of getting it repaired and taking the long route."
Peterson, who turns 32 in March, said he could play another seven years.
"In my mind, I'm thinking if God's willing, I stay healthy, I'll play five more [years]," he said. "And it's going to be at a high level."