It was the worst kept secret in the NFL. Allweek, the Vikings held the status of All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson closeto the vest, deeming his availability a game time decision. Although everyoneknew or assumed AP would suit up and see his first NFL action since he tore twoligaments in his left knee on Christmas Eve last year against Washington. Early in the week, the talk wasif he did play, he would split carries with Toby Gerhart. Then word leakedSaturday night that not only would AP play, he would carry the ball between10-15 times.
He did neither.
In his first game back, Peterson ran 17 times for 84 yards and scored twice andin the process reclaimed his spot as the top rusher in the NFL.
"I had a pretty good idea," said Peterson when asked if he knew he would playin the opener. "I pretty much knew that I would be out playing today. I had tokeep it under wraps, you guys know how it goes."
The response inside Mall of America field when Peterson was introduced wasthunderous, followed closely by his first carry on the games second play.
"I heard (the crowd) but I was in a zone," said Peterson. "I was just thankingGod that I was able to accomplish what I set forth and that was being able tocome out and play today."
In Peterson's mind, returning for the season opener was never a question of if.He knew it, head coach Leslie Frazier knew it and his team mates knew it.
"If coach would have said no, he probably would have dressed up and played,"said quarterback Christian Ponder. "We're excited to have him back on thefield."
During the game, Peterson eclipsed former Viking Robert Smith's career teamrushing record ending the game with 6,836 yards.
He simply got stronger as the game progressed and suddenly the plan of 10-15and ultimately 17 became more real.
"We talked about him being completely honest and not having any pride about ifanything was bothering him," said Frazier.
From a meeting of realistic expectations Peterson blew away any number. It wasn'tabout that, and with AP it never has been about a number or what anyone elsethought or said.
"Hopefully, they look at things differently," he said. "During the process itreally didn't matter what everyone else had to say. I had my vision, I knew what I wanted to do, and that's all that matters."