EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made his return to the team facility on Tuesday, participating in organized team activities and ending an absence from the team that stretched nearly nine months.
Peterson practiced for the first time since Sept. 12, when he was indicted for injuring his 4-year-old son for disciplining him with a switch. After spending nearly three months on the commissioner's exempt list and getting suspended at the end of the 2014 season, Peterson wondered aloud about his future, telling ESPN in December he had thought about retirement and adding in February he was "still uneasy" about returning to a team he believed hadn't supported him sufficiently during his legal troubles.
On Tuesday, though, Peterson said, "I'm happy where I'm at, here with the Minnesota Vikings.
"Ultimately what it came down to was, 'Get back in the building,' " Peterson said. "I've been working out hard, keeping my body in shape and it came down just to getting back in the building, being around my teammates, being around my coaches, getting back into the swing of things. I reached out, kinda gave them the heads up and said, 'I'll be in town, I'll be coming in.' "
The running back struck a conciliatory tone as he discussed his relationship with his son and the criticism he has received, saying, "I'm definitely not the victim and never tried to play the victim in this role."
Peterson said he has completed all of his counseling requirements after pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault in Texas last November and adhering to a child protective services order in Minnesota.
"There's so many forms of discipline, whether that's timeout, taking toys away or snacks and things like that. Those are forms of discipline that I use," Peterson said. "I made a mistake, and I'm not taking it lightly at all. It's something that I regret. My son knows that, the people that truly know me, know my character and know what type of character I am when I'm with my kids. They know that as well, and that's really, to me, all that matters."
Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, said in March he believed it was in Peterson's "best interests" to play with another team. On Tuesday, Peterson said Dogra was "doing his job." And while the running back vented on Twitter last Thursday about the lack of guaranteed money in his contract, he reported to Vikings OTAs on Tuesday without a financial guarantee from the team.
The running back talked with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer after Zimmer's comments last Wednesday that Peterson could "play for us or play for no one." By the weekend, a source close to Peterson said he was considering reporting to OTAs, largely because of his respect for the coach.
Asked what Zimmer meant to him over the last nine months, Peterson said, "A lot. Maybe more so than he knows. He's just one of those guys, one of those coaches, that you really don't want to disappoint, because you understand, you're able to see that he has the same passion for the game as you. And he's going to do the right thing. ... He's always been straightforward with me during this process. He's been supportive as well. So yeah, you know, considering the other coaches as well and Coach Zimmer, that played a role."
During his own news conference, in which he reiterated his fondness for Peterson, Zimmer said the Vikings "welcome him with open arms, unequivocally.
"I love this kid, I really do," Zimmer said. "I wouldn't fly down to Houston [in March] to see him if he wasn't important to me."
When asked if the team had engaged in trade talks surrounding Peterson, Zimmer simply said, "None."
After the Vikings did not trade Peterson during the NFL draft, the running back's focus seemed to shift to securing guaranteed money from the Vikings. Peterson is scheduled to make $12.75 million in 2015. His contract runs through 2017 but has no more guaranteed money, meaning the Vikings could cut the 30-year-old running back without having to pay him another dollar.
The return of Peterson, who will join second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, could transform the Vikings into a trendy playoff pick in 2015. The Vikings won five of their final nine games last season, finishing 7-9 despite also losing two starting offensive linemen to season-ending injuries.
Now Bridgewater has an offense that includes Peterson, Mike Wallace, Kyle Rudolph, Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson among its weapons, and the Vikings had the league's 11th-best scoring defense under Zimmer in 2014.
"We've got an exciting team, an excellent young quarterback," Peterson said. "We can accomplish great things."