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Vikings’ Wilf expresses admiration for Peterson

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — This was another good week for the healing process between the Minnesota Vikings and superstar running back Adrian Peterson.

A week after Peterson reversed course and said he didn’t want to play anywhere but Minnesota, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf praised Peterson in his first public comments since last September.

“He’s always had a good heart,” Wilf said Wednesday during the team’s charity golf outing. “He’s a great football player. We have great memories, and we’ll continue to have good memories with him. … He’s been great for the community, and that’s basically who he is. And, when you know that’s the character of that person, you believe in him.”

Peterson missed all but the season opener last season after being indicted on child abuse charges in Texas. He bounced between the commissioner’s exempt list and the suspended list as his case played out legally and in the widely divided court of public opinion.

When news of Peterson’s indictment broke on the Friday before the team’s second game of the season, the Vikings deactivated Peterson. The following Monday, they announced that he deserved to play while his case was being heard. Two days later, after a public outcry that included a rebuke from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and boycott threats from corporate sponsors, the Vikings backtracked with the NFL’s guidance and put Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list.

At the time, Wilf and other team executives repeatedly said, “We just want to get it right” while trying to explain the 180-degree turnaround in their decision on whether to play Peterson through his ordeal. That reversal is what angered Peterson the most and led to him and his agent, Ben Dogra, to push the team for a trade before the draft.

Reminded of that this week, Wilf said, “We’re moving on.” That’s essentially what Peterson said a week earlier when he finally returned to the team, participated in OTAs and held a press conference that took the first huge step in everybody putting this fiasco behind them.

Now, with both sides seemingly having patched up their differences, the focus has returned to the football field. The defense was greatly improved under first-year coach Mike Zimmer a year ago. Teddy Bridgewater appears to be the quarterback of the future after a promising rookie season. And the offensive weapons look impressive, especially with Peterson back on board.

Said Wilf: “I’ve never been more optimistic since we’ve owned the team about the players, the coach, our organization and the direction that we’re headed.”

–Like most coaches, Zimmer doesn’t get a kick out of sharing injury information with the public. So he has been tight-lipped on what exactly is ailing budding star linebacker Anthony Barr.

Barr missed the final four games of his rookie season because of a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. But that’s not why Barr has been a spectator during organized team activities this spring.

All Zimmer would say about Barr on Thursday was, “He’s over the hump now. I anticipate him getting some (reps) next week.”

The Vikings have their mandatory minicamp next week.

–Left defensive end Brian Robison hasn’t participated in OTAs since injuring a pectoral muscle while lifting weights last month. But Zimmer said there’s no cause for concern about the 32-year-old starter.

“I anticipate that he’ll probably be back next week,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to be careful with him. We may give him some individual work and some of the situation stuff, but we’re going to be careful with him.”

Zimmer said the same thing applies to starting right tackle Phil Loadholt, whose 2014 season ended when he tore his pectoral muscle in November.

–The Vikings are still exploring possibilities at right guard. Last month, they moved starter Brandon Fusco to the left side, where he’s likely to start next to struggling left tackle Matt Kalil.

The move was made primarily to accommodate rookie fourth-round draft pick T.J. Clemmings at right guard. Clemmings has never played guard but was a highly rated right tackle in college.

With the media limited to watching only Thursday’s practice this week, Clemmings was lining up with the second unit at right tackle. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Tyrus Thompson, another college tackle, was lining up with the first team at right guard.

Clemmings remains the likely first option as the starter at right guard. But with two rookies in the mix along with unproven second-year player David Yankey, the right guard position is a long way from being settled.


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