Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/3/12

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS - Despite his return to practice and his well-publicized goal of wanting to play in the season opener, running back Adrian Peterson's status for Sunday's game against the Jaguars won't be decided until the Vikings turn in their list of inactives 90 minutes before kickoff.

"Without question, that's what we'll do," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We're going to give him and give our team every chance possible before we make that decision.”

Although Frazier won't say it publicly, the Vikings can afford to rest Peterson in this game and probably the following week at Indianapolis. The opponents are weaker and Peterson's backup is Toby Gerhart.

There's a reason Gerhart was drafted in the second round in 2010. He's a starting-caliber NFL runner who has gotten better, bigger and stronger. He's a pile-mover with deceptive quickness. And he got considerably thicker in his upper body in anticipation of having to carry the load in Peterson's absence.

Gerhart is no Peterson, but the Vikings don't have to change their run-oriented offense when they go with Gerhart instead of Peterson.

"We're very confident and comfortable with Toby being our lead back if that's the case," Frazier said. "The same runs that Adrian would have would be the same runs that Toby would have. Obviously when Adrian is running the ball there are some differences in some of the things he does, but we wouldn't change our run scheme.”

Peterson tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee at Washington last Christmas Eve. He had surgery six days later and immediately targeted the season opener as his return date goal. Peterson has been ahead of schedule and has been practicing with limited contact the past two weeks.

Frazier said the team can't let Peterson's goal get in the way of protecting the face of the franchise long-term.

"You really have to take the emotion out of it," Frazier said. "You have to really hone in on what's best for him, what's best for our team. Adrian is not just another guy on our team; he is in so many ways the face of what we try to do. We have to be able to see the big picture when it comes to him and that's the way we'll approach it.”

So what will the Vikings be looking for this week in practice? After all, Peterson won't be tackled to the ground or have his legs targeted.

"He's done a good job from the time we've allowed him to begin practice," Frazier said. "The game just takes on a whole different mindset for everybody, even the level of practice changes, the intensity. We have to see him get through some things and see how he handles certain things from a mental and physical standpoint. It's different when there is no endpoint, in his case he knew a few weeks ago he wasn't going to play in the preseason. Now the mindset changes a little bit and we have to see how he handles that.”

Look for Peterson to play, but get only a couple of carries. Gerhart is primed to be the workhorse back, so there's no reason not to lean on him while bringing Peterson back slowly.

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