MANKATO — Adrian Peterson said it's been a "rollercoaster" offseason, with constant rehab of his knee and an off-field incident at a Houston nightclub.
But as he drove up the Stadium Road hill toward Gage Hall, he started to feel the excitement of a new season.
"I've been working hard," he said. "I'm excited to see where I'm at."
The Minnesota Vikings arrived Thursday and will hold their first two practices today, with a walk-through in the morning and a longer, no-pads workout in the afternoon. There"s a chance that Peterson, just seven months removed from a severe knee injury, might be on the physically-unable-to-perform list, working out with a trainer on an adjacent practice field.
"It's going to be their call," Peterson said. "My main focus is to get out there and get myself ready."
The Vikings could put Peterson on the PUP list, which means he can"t practice with the team, as a means of protecting him from contact. He can come off the PUP list at anytime.
Peterson said that he"s talked a lot with linebacker Chad Greenway, whose been through the knee rehab. He said his knee feels great and that he"s been sprinting, jumping and cutting. But he knows it will be different when there are players around him and he has to make football moves.
"I just want to be out there with my teammates and be involved," he said. "To what extent? I don't know."
Coach Leslie Frazier arrived for his sixth season in Mankato and proclaimed his players and coaches ready to go. Compared to last summer, when he was trying to organize his first training camp as head coach but was hindered by the lockout, he feels a lot better about his team.
"There's no comparison," Frazier said. "We are much more prepared with what we have to get done with a new football team. Spending three weeks down here will be a big plus."
Frazier said a big difference in this camp will be better competition for starting positions and roster spots.
"We're excited because there are multiple guys who will win jobs in this camp," he said. "We're talking about guys who weren"t here last year and didn"t have a major role a year ago. That's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."
No bill for Ponder
Last season, some of the veterans played a joke on quarterback Christian Ponder. At a local restaurant, the veterans stuck the rookie with the bill, which included all the dinners and a few bottles of adult beverages.
"They gave me a fake bill. It was like $14,000," Ponder said. "They said I turned pale, but I was just going to pay it."
This summer, he's more prepared for training camp and shouldn't be the target of such a rookie prank.
"I'm a lot more confident," he said. "Just more comfortable with the coaches, my teammates and the surroundings. That should make it more fun."
The other No. 1
With first-round choice Matt Kalil getting most of the attention, having signed his contract Thursday, safety Harrison Smith walked into Gage nearly unnoticed.
"As a rookie, I really don"t know what to expect," Smith said. "I"m pretty excited and anxious. There's a lot of Notre Dame guys who have been here before that have told me a little bit about this."
Smith, who was acquired when the Vikings traded up to No. 29 in the first round, is one of five players on the roster from Notre Dame. He will be given a chance to win a starting safety position.
"This is a huge time for me," he said. "I want to start strong and keep improving."
Johnson at guard
Charlie Johnson came to Mankato a couple days late last summer, taking over at left tackle when Bryant McKinnie was waived. This summer, he"s the starting left guard, having slid inside after Kalil was drafted.
"It's not a big deal," he said. "I don't care where I play as long as I'm playing somewhere. I've played guard, it's just been awhile."
Kalil and Johnson will anchor the left side with John Sullivan at center and Phil Loadholt at right guard. There will be competition for the right-guard spot.
"We just need to work together as a unit," Johnson said. "We"re all trying to get better."