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Vikings OTA notebook: Players upbeat about AP’s return

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Teammates were excited to see star running back Adrian Peterson back on the football field this week for the first time since last September.

And that includes the one teammate who very well could have become a starter had Peterson moved on.

“It’s an opportunity to learn from the best running back in the game,” second-year running back Jerick McKinnon said. “The physical standpoint of athletes at this level is going to take care of itself. But it’s more about the mental aspect and knowledge and stuff like that. So I just get to learn more from him, keep growing.”

Some teammates already are hoping that reporters move on from asking them about Peterson and his return after months of dealing with the massive public fallout from the injuries he caused while disciplining his 4 1/2-year-old son with a wooden switch.

Asked Thursday for a reaction to Peterson’s return, linebacker Chad Greenway smiled and said, “That was so three days ago,” a reference to Peterson’s first practice and press conference coming Tuesday.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph said the team wasn’t exactly sharp in its first practice with Peterson back on board.

“His first day back on Tuesday, we made a few mistakes out here in the wind,” he said. “At practice, we were giving coach Zim (Mike Zimmer) a hard time because I said, ‘No matter what, we got better today. (No.) 28 walked in the door. We’ll clean up the mistakes, but we got better.'”

Meanwhile, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was impressed by Peterson’s always-tip-top shape.

“He’s been out of football for almost a whole year, but a guy like him, though … I didn’t know he was going to come back in this type of shape,” Munnerlyn said. “He’s in unbelievable shape, like he never lost a step. And he’s out to prove a point.”

–Vikings general manager Rick Spielman might be the guy most happy that Peterson is back and that everyone apparently is ready to move forward. It was Spielman, after all, who stuck to his guns and refused to trade or release Peterson when the disgruntled superstar and his agent were creating a firestorm in an effort to force the team to unload him.

“We’re excited to get this kind of resolved,” Spielman said. “And I think everybody is very excited about moving forward with this.”

Spielman said a large portion of the credit goes to Zimmer, for whom Peterson has a great deal of respect.

“I think coach Zimmer has a great relationship with players in general,” Spielman said, “and his ability to communicate with them. As you know, there’s not much filter with coach Zimmer, but that’s why players respect him.

“Not only is he a great teacher and going to make a better football player, but they have the utmost respect for him and how he handles things.”

–Rookie offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings left the field during Thursday morning’s organized team activity practice and did not return. The leg injury is not related to the previous injury that caused Clemmings to fall to the fourth round of the draft.

Clemmings was considered one of the better offensive line prospects coming out, but fell when evidence of an old stress fracture in his foot was discovered at the Combine. Clemmings has said he never even knew he had a stress fracture.


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