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Vikings RB Peterson insists he will play Sunday

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson smiles prior to the Sept. 18 game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — During Adrian Peterson’s media scrum on Thursday, a reporter asked the Vikings running back what he thinks has been missing from Minnesota’s moribund running game this season.

Peterson was incredulous.

“What do you think?” he shot back with a grin.

Yes, the Vikings’ offensive line has been a mess, beset by injuries that have claimed two opening day starters for the season, and the other three for at least a game — clearly an issue. But the missing piece has been Peterson, the Vikings career rushing leader and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion.

Not anymore.

Peterson told dashradio.com Friday afternoon that he will play Sunday when the Vikings (7-6) play host to the Indianapolis Colts (6-7) at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Since Peterson’s rookie season in 2007, the Vikings are 64-52-1 with him on the field, and 16-18 without him. Yes, the Vikings hope he plays Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Out since tearing a meniscus in his left knee in a Week 2 victory over Green Bay, Peterson has practiced all week at full strength.

“He looks good. He’s got fresh legs, I guess, and he’s been able to execute the plays for this game plan, so we’ll just have to see if he’s ready yet,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “It’s a process, as you know.”

Peterson wasn’t available to reporters covering the team Friday but told dashradio.com, an Internet radio station of which he is part owner, that he plans to play on Sunday.

“I’m going to go ahead and go this week,” Peterson told DJ Skee. “I’m going to get back out there this week and am looking forward to getting back with my team and continue this journey to make it to the playoffs.”

Over the past three seasons, Peterson, 31, has been absent more than present, and the team’s record has suffered. While Peterson was suspended 15 games in the wake of a 2014 child abuse arrest, the Vikings went 7-9 and averaged 112.7 rushing yards a game. This season, they’re 6-5 without Peterson and averaging an NFL-worst 73.4 yards a game.

Last year, Peterson ran for 1,485 yards and the Vikings won their first NFC North title since 2009.

“Certainly having him back will give us a boost,” Shurmur said. “We all know what a great player he is.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer said before Friday’s practice there had been no final decision.

“We just have to make sure everything’s good with the doctors,” he said.

Peterson has a history of healing quickly. After tearing ligaments in his left knee in December 2011, he returned ahead of schedule to rush for 2,097 yards and win the NFL MVP Award in 2012. On Thursday, however, he expressed concern over his knee, and said he will wear a titanium brace for the rest of the season.

The injury, he pointed out, generally takes four to six months to heal. It’s been three months since he was hurt in a 17-14 victory over the Packers on Sept. 18.

“As far as the meniscus, in my mind I’m telling myself it’s a hundred percent healed, but I really won’t know until I see some images,” he told reporters on Thursday. “So, with that, you have to be smart about how you approach everything going ahead.”

Through 13 games, the Vikings have yet to reach 1,000 rushing yards as a team. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata have rushed a combined 236 times for a 742 yards, and the Vikings’ rushing average of 73.4 yards a game ranks dead last among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Of the state of the running game, Peterson said: “It is what it is, and everyone around knows the answers. … Normally, when you lose a starter, you’re kind of hurt in that area. So, that has a little to do with it.”

Peterson was not sharp when he did play this season, running 31 times for 40 yards before being hurt, averaging 1.6 yards a carry. Zimmer said that likely was because of a “new system.” Shurmur, who joined the team as tight ends coach, and offensive line coach Tony Sparano are new to the Vikings this season.

“We added some new coaches and added some new concepts,” Shurmur said, “and early in the year we were probably just trying to find our way as to which things were going to be good, that’s all.”

The last time Peterson played, Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator; he resigned Nov. 2 and was replaced by Shurmur.

“There certainly are some new things that we’re doing that he’s not familiar with,” Shurmur said. “He’s been in meetings; he’s been around; he’s somewhat familiar with what we’re doing. But knowing it and actually going out and executing it are two different things.”

The Vikings (7-6) don’t seem concerned about that, though. They likely need to win their last three regular-season games to make the playoffs, and history says Peterson will give them a better chance.

So does Peterson.

“I always feel I’ll accomplish whatever I put my mind to,” he said Thursday. “I won’t necessarily say I have to prove anything to myself, because I already know I’m going to be back and better than I was before.”

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