MANKATO, Minn. On a side field at Minnesota State University, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was going through drills with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, following the protocol of his rehab from knee surgery.
But these drills were new for Peterson as the Vikings try to increase the running back's football activities in preparation for his eventual activation from the physically unable to perform list. The usual agility drills were replaced by actual football movements. Sugarman handed off to Peterson, simulating more game-like conditions, trying to replicate moves in which Peterson would be expected to perform in a game situation.
These new workouts even drew the attention of general manager Rick Spielman, who stood close by, watching intently as Sugarman and Peterson worked. It's all part of a plan to get Peterson ready for game action. There is still no timeframe for when Peterson will see game action, or practice repetitions for that matter. And coach Leslie Frazier said he would prefer to see Peterson play in a preseason game ideally before letting the running back loose for the first regular season game on Sept. 9.
"Ideally you'd like for him, if we're going to try to see in the first game of the season, for him to get some work in the preseason at some point," Frazier said after Saturday's practice. "Now, will that happen? I don't know. We'll see how he progresses. But ideally you'd like to see him get some carries at some point in the preseason, just for his benefit where he can gain some confidence and get a feel for where he is and where he needs to be for the first game of the season."
Peterson's goal ever since surgery at the end of December was to return for the regular season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. His intense rehab has brought him to the brink of being ready for practices and games less than seven months removed from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. Peterson showed up to camp and declared himself ready to go, but was then put on the active PUP list for precautionary purposes.
It was a decision from the top after Frazier and Peterson spoke on the eve of camp. Peterson, who tried to fight against the PUP designation, knew it was inevitable.
"I didn't want to believe it, but I kind of knew it was going to happen," Peterson said Friday. "But, like I said, it is what it is. The only thing I can do is be positive. Be positive about it and continue working out, just getting stronger and faster and getting better."
And a day later Peterson was doing some football-related drills with Sugarman, another step in the process.
"Just to simulate somewhat some of the things he would be doing drill work to see how he responds, and one of the keys is what happens the day after," Frazier said. "We'll keep monitoring, keep adding a little bit more, see how he responds and then make a decision at some point."
Peterson has said reacting to situations is the final step in his recovery. He feels he can run and cut. It's the unexpected scenarios, the instinctual movements that are the final test.
"The one thing I'm missing is being out there and actually going through the actual football activities and guys diving at your legs and making cuts, and things like that," Peterson said. "That's something you can't imitate off to the side by yourself."
Performing situational drills with Sugarman is another step, a sign Peterson is getting closer to a return, though Frazier refused to speculate on any sort of timeline for Peterson.
"We want him to sometimes just have to react to what he sees, just like he would have to in a game where he doesn't know if a guy is going to fall in front of him, but he has to find a way to get out of the way to protect himself," Frazier said. "We have some things in place that we're going to do as we continue to progress over these next few days."
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.