Adrian Peterson Playing in Week 1 Would Be Terrible Mistake for Vikings
Adrian Peterson is expecting himself to be ready for the Vikings' Week 1 opener against Jacksonville this season.
In an article by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Peterson is on track:
Peterson is itching to be on the field. He has long targeted Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars as the benchmark for his return, and he didn't back off that timeline on Tuesday.
"I feel like it's realistic," said Peterson. "As of now, I feel like I'm heading in the right direction to meet that."
As good as this may sound, the consequences could be detrimental to Peterson's career with an early return. Unlike Kansas City's Jamal Charles, Peterson tore his ACL at the end of the year, thus leaving much less time for recovery.
Here, let's take a look at some reasons why Peterson suiting up in Week 1 is a bad idea.
Minnesota's early season schedule is tough enough to keep Peterson out. The Jaguars present a potential top-five defense for 2012 and then San Francisco comes to town in Week 3, who field arguably the NFL's best defense right now.
Other early games consist of Indianapolis and Detroit, both of which are on the road. The Colts can be beaten without Peterson, and even so, Indianapolis has a defense that will be much improved from 2011.
Therefore, with a fairly tough schedule through the first half of the season and then five NFC North games in the final seven, Minnesota has to be certain that Peterson will be 100 percent for the crucial end-of-season matchups.
Week 1 is just too much of a risk right now, and in a rough division, saving Peterson's health for the future is more important.
Should Minnesota use Peterson sparingly in 2012 to save him for 2013 and beyond?
Minnesota has upgraded its defense and there's a franchise tackle in Matt Kalil. Christian Ponder also has the potential to develop as a solid NFL quarterback, so the Vikings' immediate future is bright.
However, that brightness would get significantly dimmed if Peterson tries to come back sooner than needed. He's only 27 years old, and although the NFL lifespan for a running back usually cuts off around 30, Peterson hasn't been too overused through five seasons.
And for as cautious as one has to be with an ACL injury, saving the rest of his body from so many hits in 2012 will benefit him later on. If Peterson shares more carries this season with Toby Gerhart, that will simply create a stronger backfield for Minnesota in 2013.
Not to mention the NFL draft, which could be used to patch up any more holes on the offense or defense.
Seeing how much Peterson is able to go in the preseason could be very telling. Not participating at all and then hitting the field in Week 1 would be a major risk and certainly a concern.
Right now, Minnesota has to let Toby Gerhart take the reins and lead the way. Toward the end of training camp, if Peterson suits up for a late preseason game against some backups, then Week 1 may not be out of the question.
It all simply comes down to being cautious, because any time a player returns from injury, the game has proven before that a safe return is not guaranteed.
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